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Irene Watch: Fairfield closes beaches, flooding alert issued

Updated 4:56 pm, Friday, August 26, 2011

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  • An electronic sign at Reef and Fairfield Beach Roads is just one of the many ways town officials are urging residents to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    An electronic sign at Reef and Fairfield Beach Roads is just one of the many ways town officials are urging residents to prepare for the arrival of Hurricane Irene. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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• FAIRFIELD STORM INDEX Here's a listing of public-safety and information phone numbers and websites in Fairfield for use during Hurricane Irene. • Police, fire and medical emergencies: 911 • Emergency information phone line: 203-254-4899 • Periodic storm bulletins on town website: www.fairfieldct.org • Reverse 911 will be used to call residents about evacuations, emergencies • If needed, an emergency evacuation shelter will be opened at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, 785 Unquowa Road • Police Department: 203-254-4800 • Fire Department: 203-254-4700 • Power outages: 1-800-722-5584 • Fairfield school emergencies: 203-255-TALK • Bulletins from the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security: www.ct.gov/demhs
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- FAIRFIELD HURRICANE PREP, FRIDAY UPDATE

Preparations for Hurricane Irene intensified Friday in Fairfield, as the National Weather Service issued a "hurricane watch" for the area.

The Police Department was ready to deploy its mobile command center if needed, and the Parks and Recreation Department removed swim buoys from town beaches.

Should it become necessary, Lt. James Perez, a police department spokesman, said police are ready to move their operations to Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University.

"What we fear is if flooding reaches up this far," Perez said, referring to tidal flooding northward on Reef Road. "We are prepping for any and all contingencies."

Perez said residents, especially those living at the shoreline, should take precautions. He said if beach residents decide to ride out the storm in their homes, they should put a sign in their window letting police know if they're okay or need help. "That way we don't waste our resources," he said.

Perez said flooding from the storm could cover streets south of the Post Road, from Riverside Drive to Southport Beach. "Stay indoors, do not run down to the beach to look at the waves," he said.

The buoys at Fairfield's public beaches have been pulled from the water because of tides and surf, and signs posted closing swimming areas.

The storm has prompted Fairfield University to delay the fall semester's student move-in schedule. Move-in and orientation activities for freshman, initially scheduled for Sunday, have been moved to Tuesday. Sophomores will move in on Tuesday and juniors and seniors Wednesday.

Updates from the university can be found at www.fairfield.edu.

- THURSDAY

Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.

Fairfield's town officials and emergency services personnel have been closely monitoring Hurricane Irene as the storm pounded Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, and by midday Thursday, was poised to roar ashore on North Carolina's Outer Banks.

Local storm preparations ramped up when forecasters projected Irene's track will be northward along the Atlantic Coast, and by the weekend could inflict the first full-fledged hurricane wallop on Connecticut's coastline in 26 years. However, forecasters Thursday also said it was too early to predict precisely when -- and how severe -- the storm will be if it hits the region.

At the very least, most forecasts say southwestern Connecticut is likely to experience tropical storm-level rain and winds by midday Sunday, which could grow to hurricane force by Sunday night.

In Fairfield, preliminary preparations for Hurricane Irene were under way by midweek, with Deputy Chief Art Reid, who heads the town's Emergency Management Department, meeting with other town officials.

"Right now, everyone is saying it will be a category 1 storm," Reid said of the hurricane, which is tracking to make landfall here on the Connecticut-Rhode Island border.

If that prediction holds true, reid said, Fairfield will definitely experience tropical-storm force winds. If it moves a bit west, it could be worse.

By Thursday morning, forecasters had predicted a slight shift to the west in Irene's path.

"This is a serious one," Reid said, comparing the storm to Hurricane Gloria. "A difference of 10 miles per hour in wind makes a huge difference."

Reid said the local Reverse 911 system will be used to inform residents of any evacuations and there will be periodic updates on the emergency information phone line -- 203-254-4899. Storm bulletins also will be posted on the town's website, www.fairfieldct.org.

His office has been in contact with the Red Cross and the town's CERT team to make preparations for shelters and evacuations, should they become necessary.

Reid said he expects to meet again Friday with interim First Selectman Michael Tetreau, Police Chief Gary MacNamara and Public Works Director Richard White.

Police spokeswoman Sgt. Suzanne Lussier said the department is encouraging residents, especially those along the shoreline, to take steps now to protect their property, develop a plan, and put together a supply kit for emergencies, such as power outages.

A storm surge of 5 to 8 feet above normal tide levels is being reported by the National Weather Service. Questions can be directed to the Fairfield police marine unit through the main Police Department number at 203-254-4800.

Police on Thursday recommended that boaters remove their vessels from the water at South Benson Marina, Ye Yacht Yard and other local marinas, and put them in dry dock as far from the water as possible.

Reid and Lussier said residents should monitor local news outlets throughout the weekend for weather updates and any emergency notifications.

FAIRFIELD STORM INDEX

Here's a listing of public-safety and information phone numbers and websites in Fairfield for use during Hurricane Irene.

- Police, fire and medical emergencies: 911

- Emergency information phone line: 203-254-4899

- Periodic storm bulletins on town website: www.fairfieldct.org

- Reverse 911 will be used to call residents about evacuations, emergencies

- If needed, an emergency evacuation shelter will be opened at Fairfield Ludlowe High School, 785 Unquowa Road

- Police Department: 203-254-4800

- Fire Department: 203-254-4700

- Power outages: 1-800-722-5584

- Fairfield school emergencies: 203-255-TALK

- Bulletins from the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security: www.ct.gov/demhs