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.