When Tropical Storm Irene hit the Connecticut coastline early last Sunday morning, the state braced itself for the worst. And residents in communities throughout the area stepped forward to give their best.
Throughout the region, private citizens, public officials, town employees and neighbors banded together to protect one another during the tropical tempest.
And then, those same communities came together again after the skies cleared, to begin the long and arduous task of cleaning up storm-related debris, as well as weather a second emergency situation left in the storm's wake: tens of thousands of homes and businesses without power for days.
In Hamden, volunteers with the town's Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, ran distribution centers that handed out bottled water and food — including military MREs or "meals ready-to-eat" — to residents there, many of whom still without power as of Saturday afternoon.
Local town governments also have gone the extra mile in ensuring the health and welfare of their residents. In Branford, one of the hardest hit shoreline communities, town officials distributed fresh water and batteries to its residents most in need, including many struggling seniors.
Stratford also organized for its residents access to bottled water, ice, potable water, and a charging station at the Oronoque Fire Station.
North Haven town officials organized and/or put together a list of much-needed services for its power-deprived residents, including hot showers, fresh water and free internet and WiFi.
And in Cheshire early next week, the town's Public Works Department plans to go the extra mile — literally. Crews there will be going curbside, from house to house, picking up tree limbs and other wooden debris to help residents clean up after the storm.
North Branford Public Works said it plans to do the same, requesting residents pile up the brush and wood along the curb to allow town crews to help homeowners clear away the storm debris.
Town libraries also rose to the challenge. Like many others throughout the state, the Hagaman Memorial Library in East Haven not only provided free computer and wireless internet access to area residents without power — some from towns as far away as Westport — but also an opportunity to recharge cell phones, laptop computers and other battery-run electronic devices.
In Orange, CERT volunteers were on hand at the town's emergency shelter to assist residents before, during and after the storm. This earned the team members some much-deserved praise from the town's first selecman.
The region's religious communities also stepped forward to help. In Milford, Beth-El Center's soup kitchen opened their pantry doors to storm victims who were just looking for a hot meal during power restoration efforts. Although the program is open year round, volunteers said they served lunch and dinner to several residents who were without electricity this week.
Even the area's animals received special attention in the storm's aftermath. One business owner in the town of Bethany donated an entire tanker truck of fresh water to allow local animal owners there to replenish their supplies after several days of post-Irene power problems led to many reaching the bottom of their water reserves.