Coastal Connecticut Town Grapples With Storm

The entire coastline of Connecticut, along the Long Island Sound, was deluged overnight as the high winds and tides from superstorm Sandy swept through. Renee Montagne speaks with Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Conn., about how his town is faring.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The entire coastline of Connecticut along the Long Island Sound, was deluged last night as high winds and tides from Superstorm Sandy swept through. The Long Island Sound flooded city streets and towns. Trees toppled onto power lines; more than 600,000 utility customers were out of power. And two people have died.

We've reached the mayor of one of those communities - Bridgeport, Connecticut; population, about 150,000 people. And Bill Finch joins us on the line, after - I'm guessing, Mayor Finch - that you have had a long night without sleep. Tell us about it.

MAYOR BILL FINCH: Well, we have been wrestling - many, many first-responders without sleep. Thanks to the governor, he did send us an additional - a little bit of reinforcements, with about 100 National Guardsmen who have been helping to control perimeters where flooding has occurred, and access to the public is going to be prohibited. That was a little bit of a godsend because, as you point out, people were getting very tired and been on double shifts and whatnot. So that was very helpful.

MONTAGNE: Well, what were you seeing all last night, at the worst of this storm?

FINCH: The tidal surge was very, very significant; unlike anything we've experienced before. And I'm driving around the city now; and I'm just noticing all of the yellow horses that have been put up, to prohibit people from going into areas that have flooded. You know, the good thing about this storm is that nearly all - you know, it was most of the public - who now knows, for sure, how many - did heed the warning. I know the governor was a little bit upset with those that hadn't. But our experience in Bridgeport was that Irene prepared them for, you know, for this kind of condition. They obviously understood that the water's coming up and, you know, firemen will be zipping around your house in a boat. (LAUGHTER) That's nothing you want to be ...

MONTAGNE: And where did people go? I guess - obviously, higher ground.

FINCH: You know, the thing that always puzzles us is, you know, where they do go. But we know there's about a thousand in our shelters. We've opened up four schools for shelters; about a thousand people there. Excuse me?

MONTAGNE: Yes. Yes. Go ahead. We can hear you.

FINCH: Good. There's about a thousand people in shelters. And it was funny; I was talking to our youth explorer post at the - from the police department. They were lending a hand at the shelters, the first night. And I said, hey, you guys know anybody in the flood area? You've got to get on my cellphone, and call them. And they just sort of laughed and said, our cousins are all asleep at home in our beds. (LAUGHTER) Up high, in higher ground. And they're all out of their apartments, in the lower ground.

So people here did respond, I think, very well. And as the sunlight comes up this morning, we're then going to be left to assess the physical damage. But as I emphasized through the whole thing, we didn't want any loss of life or injuries. And it appears as though - you know, we'll hold our breath for a while - it appears as though we dodged that condition again.

MONTAGNE: Well, we just have a few seconds here. But the coastline there, facing the sound, it's an important piece of the I-95 corridor. Just very briefly, what are you seeing out there? Is it - look like people can, you know, get on the road again, at a certain point?

FINCH: Yeah. I mean, the roads that I've seen this morning, are clear. We do have a large number of trees down. People need to exert caution, obviously, with downed wires and downed trees. But you know, Bridgeport is blessed with a lot of publicly owned land. You know, we don't have mansions on - per se - on our coastline, as other towns do; that are going to be very difficult to replace. We have beautiful Olmsted parks. And so...

MONTAGNE: Right.

FINCH: ... I think it's a blessing.

MONTAGNE: Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport, Conn. Thank you very much.

FINCH: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: And you are listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

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