Five years ago, only emergency crews were allowed into the Cosey Beach neighborhood in East Haven the day after Tropical Storm Irene hammered the Connecticut coast.
“It looked like almost a tidal wave came and hit from the town beach down to Morgan Point,” East Haven Mayor Joseph Maturo said. “You had houses on top of houses, you had cars on top of cars, wires down, there was no communications, no electricity. It really was a mess.”
Anthony Maresca and Jane Dziemit are both from the Connecticut shoreline, but five years ago they lived together in California.
“Did you have any reservation about wanting to move back here and be by the water?” NBC Connecticut asked.
“No, not at all,” Dziemit said.
The couple now lives where one of the more than two dozen Cosey Beach homes destroyed by Irene once stood.
“The existing house went into the water somehow,” Dziemit said.
Before their house went up on a raised foundation in May, the couple said they had to meet strict DEEP regulations.
“And it actually had to be built where if the water was to come up it could surge all the way through,” Dziemit said.
A few doors down, another house is still in the process of being raised.
“Of course, we’re cautious you know because of what happened in the past,” Maresca said. “But what they tell me is by raising it ten feet we should be really certain that we’re going to be safe at this point.”
Mayor Maturo said the residents on Cosey Beach Avenue have been resilient during the rebuilding process.
“We knew what we had to do down here,” Maturo said. “The state helped us, the federal government helped us and I think it’s a much safer place that it was five and ten years ago.”
Lessons learned during Irene made East Haven more prepared for Superstorm Sandy the following year, Maturo said. Another key improvement is the state’s reverse 911 system that alerts residents when they need to evacuate.