Hurricane, Shmurricane—He’s Staying Put
by Melissa Bailey | Oct 29, 2012 7:50 am
Posted to: Breaking News, Morris Cove, Superstorm Sandy
This time around, Chuck Mascola isn’t following firefighters’ orders to evacuate his waterfront home: He’s staying home to bail out the basement.
Mascola lives at the water’s edge on Cove Street, one of the city’s most vulnerable streets to flooding during surging tides. He was one of some 2,000 New Haveners who got a knock on the door Sunday warning them to get out before Hurricane Sandy rolls through. By the end of Monday night the storm is expected to send surges as high as 10 feet above regular high tide, twice what Tropical Storm Irene produced in 2011.
Two dozen firefighters hit the streets Sunday afternoon, knocking on doors in Morris Cove, City Point and Fair Haven to spread the word about mandatory evacuation orders.
Skepticism reigned in the neighborhood as firefighters made a final sweep Sunday evening, encouraging neighbors to leave their homes by 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Firefighters Pablo Melendez and Luis Ortegon left Krauszer’s market around 6:30 for a final hour of door-knocking in Morris Cove. The pair, dubbed “Storm 3” on the police and fire radio, started canvassing the neighborhood around 4 p.m.
“Storm 3 to Engine 16,” said Melendez over the radio. He got his marching orders to go to Cove Street, which received some of the worst flooding in the city during Irene.
“These people should really leave,” said Melendez as he turned onto Cove Street in a Fire Department SUV.
Ortegon walked up to Mascola’s house at 180 Cove St.
Mascola answered the door. He told Ortegon he was aware of the evacuation orders. He said he planned to send his daughters to higher ground, but he and his wife planned to stay to ride out the storm.
“We learned” from Irene, Mascola said, “and we’re ready.”
Like Sandy, Tropical Storm Irene took place during a full moon, when the high tide is even higher than usual. Irene sent a storm surge of 5 feet above normal high tide. The surge pushed water up through the storm drain, flooding Cove Street, then rolling downhill to Mascola’s property. He ended up with waves lapping his yard and 3 1/2 feet of water in his basement.
“We learned a storm surge will end up in our basement,” Mascola said.
So this year, Mascola pulled everything out of his basement. He opened the front door to show piles of rescued linens stacked up on his living room couch.
As he did last year, Mascola boarded up the rear of his home, which faces the soon-to-be-crashing waves of Morris Cove. But Mascola doesn’t plan to heed evacuation orders as he did last year, when he and his family went to Guilford for the duration of the storm. He said he prefers to stay with the house to man the pumps.
Mascola said he feels comfortable with his emergency plan.
“I have my escape route,” Mascola assured Ortegon.
“If it gets worse,” he will walk up to higher ground, where his car is parked, and drive away to safety, he said.
“We think we’re able to keep this one under control,” Mascola said.
An hour earlier, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged Nutmeggers to take the situation seriously.
“This is not a joke,” the governor said during a 6 p.m. briefing. “This is a real warning of possible death by drowning.” This year’s storm surge is expected to be twice as bad as Irene, Malloy pointed out.
That government message convinced Sammy Rodriguez (pictured). Rodriguez, who lives on a small street off of Cove Street, said he plans to pack up his family and leave at 10 a.m. Monday. He plans to take them to an empty apartment in a home he owns in Fair Haven.
However, Rodriguez appeared to be in the minority among his neighbors.
“Nobody’s really leaving,” said Rodriguez, listing the neighbors in to nearby homes who were staying put.
An older man across the street from him vowed to “stick it out.” He said he’s lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.
“I’m used to 50 mile-an-hour winds,” he said.
When Melendez knocked on the door of a home about a block away, a man and woman living there said they had not heard of the evacuation orders. The woman scoffed at his suggestion of the impending danger.
“Forty miles per hour, and one inch of water!” she declared, recounting a weather report she had read online. “It doesn’t sound that bad.”
“It’s more the duration of the storm,” Melendez told her. “We recommend to evacuate. If you don’t, you’re taking your life in your hands.”
The couple, who have lived in the Cove for only three months, said they’d consider his request.
Melendez told the couple they could call 911 if they find they need help. Firefighters will be all over the neighborhood, he said.
He hopped in the car.
“Storm 3, got you covered,” he said, announcing the pair’s new motto for what will likely be an action-packed couple of days.
Firefighters plan to hit the streets again Monday morning to continue getting out the word, according to Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Egan.
Tags: Hurricane Sandy
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I admire the spine, but is your stuff really more important than your life?
Surge is already running much higher than predicted. 20 extra feet of sea level in some areas is not completely out of the realm of possibility.
Try thinking 10 extra feet of sea level, with waves on top of that driven by 90MPH winds. The one inch and 60MPH winds from Irene is not at all a good comparison.
I can understand wanting to stay and try and save your home. I can sympathize with Chuck, and I would likely stay and try to save my home. If the homeowner does not stay and have a rock-solid, two-fold plan to save the house and if things get too hairy, to evacuate and save his life, then who else is going to do it?
I think the woman who said, “Bah! One inch of water and winds at 40mph” is delusional. That is how people die in disasters and emergencies: cognitive dissonance.
If we learned anything from Katrina, it is that the government/police/FEMA/etc are *not* coming to save you. You are on your own, and with that responsibility comes logical, rational, and reasonable plans.
I hope Chuck can save his home. I don’t care if Godzilla is on a direct path toward someone’s house…if the owner wants to stay and defend the fort, then no government agency or elected official has the authority to command them to leave. I just hope that the person electing to stay is equipped and informed, and not suffering from false bravado.
Does Chuck plan to use electric pumps? Could be a problem.