Residents in some Connecticut towns are still picking up the pieces nearly a month after powerful storms blew through the state. Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency began assessing the damage Monday.
FEMA officials were given a tour of the damage in Brookfield with Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty. They walked across an overpass over Route 7 and looked down on a wide swath of debris.
“This greenway is still closed because of fallen trees,” said Brookfield FEMA Coordinator Greg Dembowski. “You can see a very small percentage of what’s out there. As you go over the overpass, look to the right and you’ll see a line of trees sitting over the greenway.”
Brookfield was one of the towns hit hardest by the storms on May 15.
“This storm, the bullseye was Brookfield, and from border to border we got hit. From west to east,” Dembowski said.
The storm destroyed dozens of homes in Hamden, New Fairfield, Brookfield and other towns. Brookfield was hit by what’s called a macroburst—an intense downdraft produced by a thunderstorm that created winds of up to 110 miles per hour. The same storm also produced four tornadoes that killed two people.
Esty said the state needs to work on a plan to be ready for intense storms like the one that hit the state in May.
“We’re not set up in Connecticut to deal with tornadoes,” she said. “We are 70 percent forested in this state. When you have tornadoes in tornado alley, there aren’t a whole lot of trees. Our whole infrastructure is in and around trees, and we may have some very serious decisions to make in our part of the country.”
Some of the hardest-hit homes in Brookfield were those on the ridge overlooking Candlewood Lake, a popular spot for boaters. Trees came down through Ray Murphy’s house on the ridge, smashing through a bedroom and into his garage.
“I have no idea what a disaster is if this isn’t,” Murphy said as he spoke to reporters outside his home.
Murphy and his family were in Disneyland when the storm hit. They learned about the damage when a neighbor texted them photos.
“We dropped the suitcases,” he said. “I get home, I find my car is crushed. It’s just disgusting. I had a brand new car in there, I had a finished Model A in there.”
Murphy’s house has been condemned, but he’s still staying there. The backyard is still full of debris, including toys, furniture and a box of neckties.
“The dressers are out, the hope chest is, you name it,” he said. “Everything is buried under there someplace. I’ve been cutting the best I can. And I know there’s jewelry and stuff buried in the backyard that you can’t get out, because that’s what I’ve been doing. We’re digging through it, we’re gonna find it. But there’s stuff back there.”
Murphy feels like he’s barely gotten any help as he digs through his backyard. He said he hasn’t had much luck with the insurance company and he’s not holding his breath for help from the federal government as he figures out how to rebuild his house.
“It’s gonna get fixed one way or the other,” he said. “If it comes out of my pocket, it’s gonna get fixed. But we’ll see. If they do it, they do it. If they don’t, I’m alive!”
After FEMA finishes its damage assessment, its report will be used by Governor Dannel Malloy for a possible disaster declaration. That could lead to federal aid if approved by the President.