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Naugatuck Residents Begin Storm Cleanup as Gov. Offers Assistance

Governor tours Naugatuck to assess storm damage while residents look to rebound.

It was a quiet afternoon Wednesday inside Pat Tomanik's two-story Colonial at 195 Andrew Avenue. She was playing with her two grandchildren and enjoying a mild, overcast day until the moment the rain began.

Around 2 p.m., a light drizzle quickly turned to downpours, causing a torrent of water to rush through Tomanik's quaint front yard, which sits at the base of Andrew Mountain, one of the highest peaks in the Naugatuck Valley.

Within a half-hour of the first raindrops, Tomanik had piles of debris and dirt in her yard. Another 30 minutes later, she had what she described as a river running her corner lot.

"We've lived here 19 years and I've never, ever seen anything like it," she said.

Tomanik's neighbor took her two grandchildren next door to keep them safe from the fast-moving water, and Tomanik tried to document the storm with a video recorder. The camera captured rain so intense that it couldn't keep up with drain pipes, which run through her yard and pour out of a stone wall that separated the front yard from the driveway. Eventually, the water became too much for the drains to handle, and streams started spouting out of crevices in the stone wall. Eventually, the wall collapsed due to the intense water pressure.

Tomanik's story is similar to that of , when a fast-moving storm didn't cause any physical harm to human life but seriously damaged property. Down the street from Tomanik, the water was so fierce that it ripped apart the side of the road on Andrew Avenue across from the elementary school. About a half-mile away, on Rubber Avenue, water rushed off of Cliff and Aetna streets so intensly that it busted a retaining wall behind the Cosmetology Center. The parking lot at the business, which is owned by former Burgess Mindy Fragoso, collapsed and an old truck was hanging from the edge of a cliff where the retaining wall once sat. Crowds of people stood near the recycling center to snap photographs of the scene, while dozens of people stood on Cliff Street Wednesday evening as a tow truck driver removed the vehicle.

Mayor Bob Mezzo declared a state of emergency after two apartment buildings - one on Trowbridge Place and the other on Prospect Street - were evacuated. In other parts of Naugatuck, homes and some municipal buildings - including Hillside School - sustained heavy water damage, and several roads collapsed due to the fast-moving storm that hammered Naugatuck with up to four inches in less than two hours but brought nary a drop to most bordering towns.

Firefighters from Bethany, Beacon Falls and Oxford helped Naugatuck firefighters pump out dozens of basements, including that of St. Francis Church downtown, and Waterbury firefighters remained on call at the two Naugatuck fire stations.

The American Red Cross was available to help people who had been displaced, and borough officials set up an emergency shelter at the Naugatuck Senior Center, 300 Meadow St. An emergency operations center was set up at the Naugatuck Police Department, where Gov. Dannel P. Malloy discussed a plan of action with borough officials Wednesday night and offered the state's assistance in terms of manpower to help with cleanup efforts. (See video attached to this story.)

The borough will likely apply for financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA. 

Like many other residents, Tomanik will also be in touch with FEMA in hopes of receiving assistance.

Tomanik said her cellar is caked with mud and her front yard will definitely collapse within the next day or two because the wall holding it up has collapsed.

Still, she is counting her blessings.

Nobody was injured and her house is still standing; representatives of the Naugatuck Building Inspector's office said the home is inhabitable. She has insurance, which she hopes will cover costs to rebuild the yard and clean the basement.

Looking around her property Wednesday evening, Tomanik thought for a moment about the meaning behind a quote she has hanging on her front patio: "We can't direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." 

The words seem to fit her current situation: she cannot control the obstacles put in her path, but she can decide how she will react.

"We just have to stay positive," she said.

Paul Singley August 02, 2012 at 03:05 AM
From our Facebook page. Couldn't agree more: "Crazy day in Naugatuck. Great job to all the Police, Fire, EMS departments, and street department, plus other towns who responded quick today during the storm. GREAT JOB!!!!"
Paul Singley August 02, 2012 at 03:09 AM
From Mayor Mezzo's blog: As of approximately 8:00 PM, the following roads are compromised in the Borough: * Scott Street at Andrew Avenue is closed. * Arch Street by the former Risdon property is closed. * Brook Street is partially closed. * Barricades along Nettleton Avenue and Moore Avenue are restricting access to certain portions of the road. Limited travel exists in this location. * Barricades along Wooster Street near Fairview Lane are restricting access to certain portions of the road. Limited travel exists in this location. All other roads are open for travel. Traffic is flowing freely on Route 8 and all Naugatuck exits are open. We still urge motorists to exercise extreme caution while driving as debris removal efforts will continue throughout the night. Reports are now indicating that approximately six (6″) inches of rain fell on Naugatuck during the afternoon.
Rocky Vitale August 02, 2012 at 07:50 AM
Homeowners insurance does not cover flood, surface water, etc. Need specific flood insurance.
Scott Henry August 02, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Scott Henry 10:04 am on Thursday, August 2, 2012 Flash Flood - Rapid flooding of a low lying area. Let's talk about the Nettleton construction area that is ON TOP OF A HILL. We talked to a worker over there and he said a water main had been shut off so the water from surrounding streets was being routed through Nettleton. Pete and Steve's construction has a HUGE HOLE there that has not been touched in three weeks. The hole overflowed yesterday sending a huge river 2 ft deep down Lynn Street and Le Clair Court. I have thousands and thousands of damage in my finished basement that is located ON TOP OF A HILL. The town of Naugatuck and Pete and Steve's need to step up and admit fault on this and stop trying to cover it up. Flash flood? Yes, in the lower parts. In the Nettleton area? Absolutely not. A huge mistake by the town and the construction company. There are ten trucks over there now trying to cover up their mess. Channel 8 is reporting on it. That muddy river yesterday was not from just rain. Something needs to be done!!!!
Tracy August 02, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Where and how do we apply for assistance?????

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