For 90-year-old, getting to the shelter was most of the battle

By Ken Dixon

SHELTON – Ninety-year-old Joe Belus had a uniformed chauffeur drive him to the emergency shelter at Shelton High School after attempts to signal his neighbors for assistance failed Sunday afternoon.

The retired Bridgeport carpenter woke up in his Isinglass Road home to a power outage that included his phone, so he tried a different way of calling for help.

“I couldn’t call out,” Belus said, “so I got a couple of big pots and pans that I was banging on to signal for help, but I live deep in the woods.”

Belus checked in as the only resident of the town’s 70-bed shelter.

With a cup of coffee and a sandwich in hand from emergency personnel, who outnumbered him about 15-to-1, Belus said that he finally drove his car up to the head of his driveway and got out. His initial gestures for help failed as motorists sped by without stopping.

Finally someone pulled over and called local emergency personnel. Belus was driven to the shelter in his Buick by a Shelton firefighter, emerging from the vehicle with his cane and a box of medications.

By mid-afternoon, only three people had registered at the shelter, said Joseph Laucella, assistant chief of the Echo Hose Ambulance Co., whose personnel were manning the center with the assistance of school workers.

The other evacuees were a couple from a Keron Drive home, where a falling tree smashed through the roof and into their bedroom. There were no injuries and their visit to the shelter was brief, before they contacted relatives and their insurance company.

In fact, Laucella said, there were no reported injuries throughout the city during the storm, which caused trees to crash down on power lines and block streets throughout the city.

“There were some calls for portable oxygen and some medical calls, but there were no injuries related to the storm and that makes us happy,” Laucella said, as Belus was taking his pick of cots in the school gym.

“It’s always good to expect the worst and hope for the best,” said Laucella, who was proud that the ambulance group was staffed with 20 volunteers for the ambulances alone Sunday in anticipation of greater damage from Hurricane Irene.

Belus, who lives alone and is kind of wobbly on his legs, was greeted by eight people outside the school and escorted in, where Max Bernstein, an ambulance company volunteer, checked him in.

Bernstein, who took his EMT training with the Echo Hose Co., said that during the storm a tree or two fell on his home in Norwalk. “But there will be time later to get to it,” he said.