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5 Years Later: Fairfield County Rebuilds After Sandy But Still Feels Impact

A Fairfield Beach Road home is submerged by flooding after Hurricane Sandy.
A Fairfield Beach Road home is submerged by flooding after Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Jon Fontneau
This Fairfield Beach Road home in Fairfield collapsed during Hurricane Sandy.
This Fairfield Beach Road home in Fairfield collapsed during Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Rich Pittera
Hurricane Sandy toppled a tree in front of the Ridgefield Library.
Hurricane Sandy toppled a tree in front of the Ridgefield Library. Photo Credit: Alissa Smith
A playground on Sea Beach Drive took on water as Hurricane Sandy approached the Stamford.
A playground on Sea Beach Drive took on water as Hurricane Sandy approached the Stamford. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stamford Fire & Rescue Department
Hurricane Sandy blew trees down throughout Westport.
Hurricane Sandy blew trees down throughout Westport. Photo Credit: Johanna Rossi
A tree crashed into this house at 26 Forest Ave. in Danbury during the height of Hurricane Sandy.
A tree crashed into this house at 26 Forest Ave. in Danbury during the height of Hurricane Sandy. Photo Credit: Claire Tensa
Debris was strewn all over Binney Lane in Greenwich on Tuesday morning after Hurricane Sandy
Debris was strewn all over Binney Lane in Greenwich on Tuesday morning after Hurricane Sandy Photo Credit: Eric Gendron

FAIRFIELD County, Conn. — Sunday is the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Sandy hitting the region, killing five in Connecticut and causing massive flooding, power outages and destruction across the state.

Homes ripped from their foundations washed out into Long Island Sound. Others lay crumpled under enormous downed trees.

In a scene representative of those played out across the county, evacuated Westport residents Harv and Lynn Schuster came home to find their house surrounded by a saltwater moat teeming with live wires.

“This is like a war zone,” Lynn Schuster told a reporter the next day. “What are we going to do now?”

With five years of hindsight, Fairfield County still feels the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which killed Easton volunteer firefighter Russell Neary and left scores of homeowners struggling to rebuild or start over.

“Storm Sandy did major damage to our community,” Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau told Daily Voice on Thursday. “There has been a long-lasting financial impact on many of our residents and families.”

Hurricane Sandy was the 18th named tropical cyclone of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, having formed in the central Caribbean on Oct. 22, according to the National Weather Service.

The storm intensified as it tracked north across Jamaica, eastern Cuba and the Bahamas before turning west toward the mid-Atlantic coast on Oct. 28.

Residents along the coast were preparing for the storm for days with President Barack Obama officially declaring a state of emergency in Connecticut, Washington, D.C., and five other states on Oct. 28.

Amtrak began canceling many planned runs on Oct. 27 and hundreds of airline flights in and out of the New York City region were called off in the days before the storm hit. Metro-North also shut down.

The storm forced evacuations of coastal neighborhoods across Fairfield County and beyond with residents boarding windows and doors, moving valuables to higher ground and heading for relatives’ homes and crowded hotels.

Sandy approached land as a Category 2 storm, with hurricane force winds extending 175 miles from the eye, making it much larger than most storms of its type. It became a post-tropical cyclone just before making landfall near Atlantic City, N.J.

The storm raged throughout the day, turning much of the shoreline into a dystopian wasteland.

In Fairfield alone, rescue workers logged an estimated 1,000 trees down, 1,000 homes damaged by flood waters and 5,000 residents evacuated.

At the height of the storm, residents on ravaged Fairfield Beach Road estimated waves were 10 to 12 feet high and saltwater surged along town streets, coming within 100 yards of Fairfield Town Hall on Old Post Road.

“I saw 64 inches of water in people’s homes, five feet of sand around their houses—houses totally penetrated, with water coming in the front door and going out the back,” Bridgeport contractor Bill Hamilla told Connecticut Magazine for a retrospective.

Six Fairfield homes washed out to sea and another 24 had to be condemned. Residents a half-mile inland from the normal tideline were cleaning up sand brought in the storm surge.

By Nov. 2, four days after the storm, areas hit by Sandy were experiencing gas shortages due to gas stations without electricity. An estimated 3.3 million customers in the New York region were still without power.

In February 2013, a National Hurricane Center report indicated Sandy was responsible for the greatest number of direct fatalities by a tropical cyclone outside the southern states since Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Sandy was directly responsible for 147 deaths in the Northeast, including five in Connecticut.

One of those killed here was Neary, 55, who was returning from a structure fire in Easton when Sandy’s brutal winds sent a tree crashing down on him on Judd Road.

While residents look back on Sandy’s wrath, Mother Nature is expected to mark the anniversary by dumping up to 5 inches of rain on Fairfield County.

Reflecting on Sandy, Tetreau also looked ahead to the storms that are likely to strike in the future.

“We should be proud of the way our community came together to help each other in the aftermath of this storm,” he said. “We have made major progress towards being more resilient, but still have a long way to go.”

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