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Storm isolates some, brings others together

Updated 1:46 pm, Thursday, February 21, 2013
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Staff reports

After the most prolific blizzard in more than a century, Bridgeport and southwestern Connecticut will try to get back to business Monday, but not necessarily back to school.

With two to three feet of snow falling in most communities, the huge storm cleanup continues along local streets, driveways and parking lots. The snowfall totals were the highest for the region since the legendary Blizzard of 1888, according to historians.

As Greater Bridgeport Transit Services canceled its Monday schedule because of storm cleanup and poor roads, Metro-North Railroad said it hoped to provide about half of its normal rush-hour schedule Monday morning.

"Train service will also resume on the Danbury and New Canaan branches, but not the Waterbury branch," said Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders, adding that updated schedule information is available at mta.info.

With snow-covered parking lots, bus stops and stranded cars throughout the region, many local school districts are closed Monday, including Ansonia, Bridgeport, Derby, Milford, Seymour, Shelton and Stratford.

Even more schools could close Monday if forecasts of freezing rain come to fruition early in the day. Bridgeport and Derby are among the school districts that have announced they will also be closed Tuesday.

Many roads are unplowed, and Bridgeport continues to operate under a travel ban imposed by Mayor Bill Finch.

Public works crews in Bridgeport and other communities hit hard by the storm have found the only way to effectively remove the snow is by using a combination of payloaders and truck plows.

During a news conference Sunday night, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state will offer 65 front payloaders to towns and cities that need them. The machines will be shared locally where they are stored, not shifted around the state.

The governor also said President Barack Obama's emergency declaration for the state will mean that local municipalities will get 75 percent reimbursement for some of their storm-cleanup costs.

But while many public works crews battled to remove near-unprecedented amounts of snow, there were plenty of stories over the weekend of neighbors helping neighbors.

Sometimes, under life-and-death circumstances.

When the Seagren family of Stratfield Place in Bridgeport learned their neighbor was having a heart attack Sunday -- and that first responders were struggling to drive through deep snow to reach the man -- the Seagrens did what any good neighbors would do.

They helped him.

The Seagrens own a snowplow, so Mike Seagren started plowing their end of the street, which abuts Westfield Avenue. The Seagrens were aided in their efforts by Fairfield resident Bert Andren, 75.

Andren, a longtime member of nearby Salem Lutheran Church, had been clearing the church's parking lot with his snow tractor when he heard about the heart attack and rushed to help. Andren used his tractor to break up the snow, and then, Seagren rolled through with his plow to clear the snow.

The sick neighbor was eventually stabilized and taken to the hospital. But even with the man in good care, Andren and the Seagrens still didn't feel like their work was done.

"We didn't think it was fair to just do the bottom of the street and not the top," said Mike Seagren's wife, Chrissy.

So the team, which also included Mike and Chrissy's son, Joey, made their way up Stratfield Place, one of the many streets in Bridgeport that hadn't been cleared yet after the weekend storm.

Chrissy Seagren shoveled. Joey Seagren cleared sidewalks with a snowblower. Mike Seagren plowed and Bert Andren drove the tractor.

By mid-afternoon Sunday, the good samaritans had cleared much of the street, making it possible for neighbors to get through.

Not surprisingly, the neighbors were grateful.

Andren said many offered him water, food, and even, Tylenol for helping out. Andren said the teamwork was a real testament to the power of community.

"This is proof of what neighbors can do," Andren said.

Chrissy Seagren agreed, adding that extreme events like this storm practically require neighbors to work together and to help each other.

"I've lived here 16 years and I've never seen anything like this," she said.

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