One Year Later, Fairfield County Still Recovering From Hurricane Sandy

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Hurricane Sandy caused an estimated $839 million in property damage in Fairfield County alone, according to FEMA. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel
More than 60,000 cubic yards of tree debris needed to be cleared after Hurricane Sandy hit Fairfield County. Photo Credit: Greg Canuel
Hurricane Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, covering 1.8 million square miles at its peak. Photo Credit: NASA

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane in history, slammed into Connecticut a year ago Tuesday, causing destruction not seen along the shoreline or inland in decades. And the state and the region are still dealing with those aftermaths.

When Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast on Oct. 29, 2012, it was a Category 1 hurricane with top wind speeds of 85 knots. It covered a massive 1.8 million square miles, according to research from NASA.

The storm stretched from the Atlantic Ocean inland to Michigan and from Canada to the Carolinas at its peak, with nearby New York City seemingly in the bull's eye. It was the largest tropical cyclone since NOAA’s current data collection system began in 1988.

“Because of its tremendous size, however, Sandy drove a catastrophic storm surge into the New Jersey and New York coastlines,” NOAA said.

The floods from the storm destroyed shoreline houses, businesses and beaches. High winds brought trees down onto houses, power lines and highways, plunging much of Fairfield County into the dark at the height of the storm. An Easton firefighter was killed by falling debris while out on a call.  

Parts of the state are still recovering from the storm, even a full year later. Last week, the state took another step toward recovering, opening relief centers in Fairfield, Norwalk, East Haven and Milford to continue to help residents get access to federal grants for still-unfinished repair work.

“If you are a resident waiting for assistance, relief cannot come soon enough,” said Gov. Dannel Malloy in a statement. “We no doubt have a long road ahead, but getting these offices open will be an effective way to make sure that residents know the state will see this effort through.”

In the United States, 117 people died because of Hurricane Sandy, through either direct or indirect causes. Of those, four were in Connecticut. The storm had the highest direct death toll of any tropical cyclone outside the Gulf Coast since Hurricane Agnes in 1972, according to NOAA’s official report on the storm.

United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power combined reported that they needed to restore power to more than 1.1 million customers statewide after the storm. The two utilities had to perform restoration work at more than 31,000 individual sites across that state, including repairing or replacing nearly 2,800 transformers combined.

The last customers to get service power restored -- by both United Illuminating and Connecticut Light & Power -- saw the lights come back on Nov. 7, nine days after the storm’s arrival.

Storm surges in Fairfield County reached more than 10 feet above normal elevation at the storm’s peak, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s report on the storm. The National Ocean Service measured record-high storm surges at both its Bridgeport and New Haven stations, according to NOAA’s official report. Those surges flooded homes, roads, beaches and towns, sometimes pulling structures down and into the waters of Long Island Sound, a sight more commonly associated with storms on the open Atlantic Ocean. 

Sandy dealt more than $839 million in property damage in Fairfield County, according to records from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. More than 3,000 homes statewide were damaged in the storm.

FEMA’s survey tallied more than 235,000 cubic yards of debris in the county as a result of the storm, including more than 60,000 cubic yards from fallen trees alone. 

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