Adovcate reporter Kate King just filed this story from a press conference held by Stamford Mayor Michael A. Pavia at 5 p.m. Monday:
By Kate King
STAMFORD – Mayor Michael Pavia urged residents to hunker down at home to ride out Hurricane Sandy as city officials braced for high winds and heavy flooding Monday night.
“We’re now moving into the more serious effects of the storm: wind, rain, possibly 40-60 mile per hour winds sustained by 75 mile per hour gusts,” Pavia said at an evening conference at the Government Center as the sound of screaming wind and fire engine sirens echoed outside. “We’re requesting that all thrill seekers or tourists of the storm, if you will, refrain from activities that put themselves in harm’s way.
“We’re also asking that all non-essential vehicles stay off the roads,” Pavia said. “Keep the roads clear in the event we have to make emergency responses with our vehicles.”
Stamford officials reported 50 downed trees or major tree limbs Monday and closed Weed Ave. in the Cove due to heavy flooding, Pavia said. The city had ordered mandatory evacuations for flood areas one and two and recommended residents in the third and fourth flood zones to seek higher ground as well.
“We’re expecting the storm surge this evening around midnight to be 5 to 8 feet,” Public Safety Director Ted Jankowski said. “We hope most people have evacuated. It’s dangerous now and we’re asking all residents to stay home.”
Sixty-five people stayed in Stamford emergency shelters Sunday night, Police Chief Jon Fontneau said. The shelters held 171 people as of 5 p.m. Monday, with the majority lodged at Stamford High School on Strawberry Hill Ave.
A Connecticut Light & Power representative has been working closely with Stamford officials throughout storm preparation and response, Pavia said. The mayor had sharply criticized the utility company for failing to adequately prepare ahead of last year’s Tropical Storm Irene and October snowstorm.
“I was probably one of the harshest critics,” Pavia said Monday. “But it’s also important to give credit where credit is due. They have driven the number outages down from 5,000 to somewhere around 2,500 in just a few hours today.”
“To me that shows the commitment and fulfillment to the promises they made to the city of Stamford to make sure they had the resources necessary to deal with the impact of this storm,” Pavia said. “From what we have seen they have turned a new page on how storms are managed in the future.”
Jankowski warned residents that high winds on Monday night into Tuesday could still knock out power for several days.
“This is a dangerous storm,” he said. “You may lose power for a long duration. Don’t panic.”
Fire Chief Antonio Conte said he does not believe the powerful storm would breach Stamford’s hurricane barrier or levees, which are 18 feet high.
“We were down their earlier today at noontime and it was at 9 feet so we think we’re pretty good,” he said.
Pavia said the Government Center will operate on a delayed schedule Tuesday and open at noon. He urged residents to stay inside and monitor local news updates.
“As prepared as you can be, we’re dealing with Mother Nature,” he said. “But I feel as mayor of this city that we have everyone in position, trained and as competent as we can possibly be to deal with as many contingencies as may arise with this storm.”
Kate.King@scni.com; 203-964-2263; http://twitter.com/kcarliniking