- Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 13:58
- Published on Wednesday, 14 November 2012 12:52
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Despite massive preparations, Colonial Beach Emergency Response Team feels they are not prepared for a direct hit from a storm like Sandy.
The boardwalk was cleared of benches and trash cans, buildings boarded up and sand bags dispersed. Town officials kept residents notified through instant alert of the impending storm, school closings and shelter openings. The town even identified streets prone to flooding. Public Works readied generators to run the water pumps, and police, fire, rescue, public works and town officials all stayed in contact, with the police station as their central command center. Town Manager Val Foulds stayed in town overnight throughout the storm.
So where did the town fall short?
“We dodged a bullet!” Foulds said, but, “We have been skating by with minimum preparation concerning the shelter.”
Since last year’s earthquake, hurricane and tropical storm that hit the beach, the town has been taking steps to prepare the high school to be the new town shelter after the two story brick building at the elementary campus was deemed unsafe. But the Emergency Response Team agrees that those steps aren’t enough.
The town opened the high school as an emergency shelter at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 29. People were asked to bring medications (both prescription and over the counter), personal care items, meals and snack-food, as well as pillows and blankets. The town warned that cold temperatures were expected and asked that people bring extra blankets. The shelter did not accept any pets other than service animals.
Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast earlier than predicted and was supposed to linger for a couple of days. When Sandy moved farther up the coast, residents of Colonial Beach were without power. Many had no idea where it was going to make landfall.
About 12 people came to the shelter, most said they came because they had big trees in their yards or lived alone.
Acting Superintendent Kathleen Beane said that school board member Mike Looney and his wife Sara helped to coordinate the efforts; Beane brought in food from her own home and school board chairman Tim Trivett set up a generator. But conditions were still uncomfortable.
Beane said, “Here I am with an old couple who had to sleep on the two bean bags from the library. It was cold. The only thing, it was not wet.”
The police department kept an officer there at all times, even though the police station has its own back up generator and they provided another portable generator to keep a light on outside so people coming to the shelter could find their way to the door.
Despite all the efforts to come together to make life bearable for the twelve people who took advantage of the shelter, Beane, and the other members of the response team,felt they fell short in the that area.
Foulds presented the group with a list of installation chores that Public Works would perform and a cost estimate for a permanent generator for the school.
Foulds, who has been employed by the town for seven years, said this is the third estimate that Murphy has done and the big issue is the cost is not getting any cheaper.
The proposed 350 kilowatt generator would be installed permanently and payments for a 60 month lease would cost $3,460.33 a month. A 24 month lease would be $7,791.80 per month.
“Moving forward we need to manage the shelter,” Foulds said, “I talked with Red Cross, who is willing to do training. Joan Grant is a trained shelter manager and is Red Cross certified, so we have a few people with the infrastructure in place but it doesn’t make a lot of sense without having power in the building.”
Foulds plans to present the request for a generator to the town council at the next committee meeting for discussion.