Hurricane Sandy crashed ashore on Monday evening, driving a deadly combination of wind and water up to Connecticut, where flooding trapped thousands of residents in coastal communities.
Wind gusts, exceeding 50 mph, toppled trees across the state, leaving more than half a million homes and businesses in the dark and contributing to at least two fatalities.
Gov. Dannel Malloy, who called the state's coastal flooding "the worst water event in the state's history," urged residents in the hardest-hit areas to stay put and ride out the storm through the night.
"Do not leave a dwelling to get into the water to swim" or try to drive away, Malloy warned in a late-evening press conference. "Stay where you are, move to a higher level."
He said there was “no doubt that thousands of people are stranded within dwellings that are in category four," referencing the highest possible warning level.
By 11 p.m. waters were receding, though they were still above flood levels and warnings remained in effect.
Winds were also weakening to about 25 mph, as the storm, downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone late Monday, moved out into central Pennsylvania. Winds were expected to continue to die down to between 15 and 20 mph Tuesday, with 40 mph gusts.
The storm surge from the Long Island Sound—which set records in Bridgeport—has left many shoreline communities under water, and is expected to leave a trail of severe property damage in its wake.
In Greenwich, officials said the National Guard is being called in to help evacuate hundreds of residents who did not heed warnings.
Earlier, the governor convened an emergency call with mayors and officials from coastal towns urging them to immediately evacuate residents from Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Stratford and Westport.
“To the extent they have the ability to order mandatory evacuations I’ve told [mayors] that they must give this their highest priority,” Malloy said in statement. “I was concerned all along about the potential destructive impact of this last high tide, and unfortunately the best information we have confirms my worst fears.”
He stressed later in the evening that residents who were already flooded in should not attempt to leave. Rescue vehicles were being dispatched, though there is no guarantee they will make it to all affected residents overnight.
The governor's office also sent a directive to the city of Stamford mandating residents on certain streets to evacuate. Stamford Police were going door-to-door advising residents of the following streets to evacuate to higher ground: Iroquois Road, Rippowan Road, Seaview Avenue, Algonquin Avenue, Ingall Street, Mohegan Avenue, Ponus Avenue, Auldwood Road, Lenark Road, Ocean Drive North, Wampanaw Road, Lanell Drive, Downs Avenue, Ralsey Road, Ralsey Road South, and Mitchell Street.
In New London, Mayor Daryl Finizio earlier ordered city police, firefighters, EMS and public works crews off the road due to the dangerous wind conditions. The city has suspended all rides from evacuation zones to shelters and city personnel will only respond to life-threatening situations, Finizio said.
Farther inland, one person was killed by a falling tree on West Highland Street in Mansfield on Monday evening, according to Mayor Elizabeth Paterson. The name of the victim has not yet been released.
A firefighter also died after a tree fell on his vehicle while he was responding to an emergency in Easton.
Meanwhile, the number of outages continue to rise as winds topple trees and down power lines.
As of 4:15 a.m .on Tuesday 484,265 Connecticut Light & Power customers and more than 144,000 United Illuminating customers were without power. According to UI officials, the company planned to shut down two substations that were being compromised by flood waters, cutting power to 52,000 customers in Bridgeport, Stratford, Fairfield and Trumbull.
Norwich Public Utilities is reporting a little over 3,200 customers without power, down from 5,400 at the peak of the storm.
Malloy ordered the state's highways closed to all but emergency vehicles at 1 p.m. on Monday.
Bradley Airport also ceased operations a 1 p.m. yesterday and indicated on its website that normal flight schedules would not likely resume until late morning/early afternoon on Tuesday. Many schools extended closures and non-essential state employees were told to stay home from work on Tuesday.
The state also offered extensions for several Thursday tax deadlines and paved the way for a more speedy recovery with an executive order allowing out-of-state workers to restore power to Connecticut homes and businesses.
Meteorologists say the worst has passed, but warn that the cleanup will costly and drag on for days.