Connecticut Coastal Community Undaunted by Long Recovery

"You can’t even go in my parents house, it's not livable the smell is so intense"

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Neal Carter, NBC News
    Much of Fairfield, Connecticut, remained underwater a day after Superstorm Sandy hit, leaving many homeless.

    More than 450,000 people across Connecticut remain without power, many are at least temporarily homeless and Halloween has been put on hold -- but help is on the way.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has made a Declaration of Disaster for Fairfield, New Haven, Middlesex and New London counties, thereby expediting federal funds to aid in the recovery process after Superstorm Sandy.

    "This is an extraordinary step for the president and his secretary of energy to have taken, and it is greatly appreciated," said Gov. Dannel Malloy. "The message is clear. We in government stand ready to help the utility companies help our residents so that we can all get our lives back to normal as quickly as possible."

    Four years before Sandy hit Fairfield, FEMA had already helped save the home of Glenn Hacker. Hacker lives about a half mile from the beach, in a house that was built to agency specifications.

    "We're 13 feet above sea level, and that's where our livable space starts," said Hacker. "(FEMA) made us put in all this special metal strapping when they framed the house, straps that tie you into the foundation, but we also had to do that to our sheds out back. Now I'm glad we did, though I thought it was stupid when they made us do it... The sheds would've been floating all over the place."

    

Hacker's parents, Bob and Betty Hacker, weren't so lucky. They've been in their home for almost a half-century, and the large tree that fell across the lawn is the least of their troubles, as the flooding in the basement caused their oil tank to break loose.



    "You can’t even go in my parents house, it's not livable the smell is so intense. We left the top windows open to let some air circulate," said Hacker. "There's a lot of oil floating around the neighborhood, I noticed that (Tuesday), it was the first thing I smelled when I opened the front door." 



    Hacker's sister, Gayle Sullivan, is staying with friends, after the basement of her own Fairfield home was flooded with five feet of water.

    "I'm gonna try to get back to my house this afternoon, just to look at it. I wouldn’t want to stay there, because there's no power," said Sullivan. "Even if I get my generator hooked up, my furnace is under water, so there's not going to be any heat or hot water."

    Still, she considers herself "lucky."

    "We keep stuff in the basement: my furnace, my washer and dryer, the normal stuff that families put in basements. That's obviously all gone, but it's just stuff"

    Tragically, Sandy also left three people dead in Connecticut: a 90-year-old Olga Raymond died Monday in Mansfield when she was hit by a falling tree; an Easton firefighter was killed when a tree landed on his truck; and Brian Bakunas, 34, was found on Tuesday, a day after he jumped from a pier to go swimming in the heavy surf near the Walnut Beach.

    While the worst of Sandy seems to be in the past, meteorologists warn that there could be more problems. Flood warnings remain for the coastline, winds could still top 30 degrees. There's even a possibility of tornadoes.

    In New Haven, East Haven, West Haven and Milford conditions remained perilous enough that trick-or-treating has been postponed until Nov. 7.

    "It's too dangerous to have the kids out on the street," said East Haven mayor Joseph Maturo. "I would say right now, there will be no trick-or-treating."

    As bad things are, Sullivan has no thoughts of leaving Fairfield.

    "You know what? We really enjoy the beach area, I really think this is one of those 100-year storms and we just have to be thankful that nobody got badly hurt," said Sullivan. "I'm gonna be playing tennis at my beach club next summer."