The city opened a day shelter Wednesday at the high school for residents still without electricity from Hurricane Irene, which hit Middletown early Sunday.
By 8:30 a.m. Thursday, 10 percent of Middletown CL&P customers remained without power (2,411). That's significantly down from Sunday, when the number of homes without electricity climbed to as high as 47 percent (10,820).
Chery Cuddy of Middletown lives with her teenage son in the Charton Terrace apartments on Newfield Street. She's been without power since 7 a.m. Sunday and lives on food stamps. She was found at the Middletown High School day shelter at noontime Wednesday, enjoying a free meal.
"It’s terrible," Cuddy said of being without power. “It’s a hardship. It’s a good thing I have a rotary phone otherwise I would have no phone service. It’s awful. I can’t wait to take a shower. I had to throw away $250 worth of food, all my hamburgers, all my meat in the freezer, everything in the fridge.
"A couple people told me, ‘just go to Amazing Grace [the local food pantry],’ yeah, go to Amazing Grace," Cuddy said, frustrated. "How do you cook? How do you microwave? How do you put milk on your cereal; eat that stuff? It’s all perishible."
At noontime Wednesday, Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano was at the shelter, speaking to emergency management staff.
“I know a lot of people who want, more than anything, a hot shower. I know it’s kind of tough, we’re asking everybody to be patient," said Giuliano, who only got his power back Tuesday.
"I am going to release, as soon as I confirm it with CL&P, their priority list — in what order they’re going to address this problem and where they’re at right now … give people an idea of where they are on the list and about when [CL&P is] going to get to them.”
Chief Sanitarian at the Health Department, Salvatore Nesci, was manning the control center in the Middletown High School cafeteria, where just before lunchtime a couple folks were enjoying sandwiches and chips and watching any of the several televisions perched high on the walls.
“The Board of Education allowed access to the men’s and women’s locker rooms for people to shower,” Nesci explained. They need only to bring toiletries — towels, soap and shampoo.
He has been fielding telephone calls from residents without power since early Sunday.
“A big concern is, people want to come in and charge their small electrical devices,” Nesci said, laptops, cell phones, cameras and iPads.
“So far this has been a great success — in two and a half hours, we’ve had well over 50 people show up.”
The day shelter is coordinated by a number of Middletown organizations.
“We work in cooperation with emergency management, we have our Community Emergency Response Team, with the medical reserve corps, police, fire — all the health and safety agencies in town,” Nesci explained.
The idea of a day shelter came from residents’ feedback, Nesci said.
“We fielded a lot of phone calls from the public, where people may not necessarily want to spend the night here, but they’ve expressed a real strong interest in a safe and clean place to bathe and nourishment — food.”
Emergency Management Director Bruce Driska was at Middletown High midday Wednesday explaining how the MREs — meals, ready to eat — will be given out to those affected by the storm. Each will receive two MREs and six bottles of water from Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Connecticut National Guard after showing a drivers license for identification.
“Cars will be loaded, they don’t need to get out of the car, they park it, it’ll be very systematic and orderly. It’s drive-through emergency food and water,” Driska said.
“We knew this [point of distribution] was going to come to reality; that we’d be involved in it, and when we decided yesterday to open the day shelter, we said, ‘whoa, let’s do the POD and the day shelter at the same site because people may want to use both things,’” Driska said.
And the MREs aren’t too shabby, Nesci said.
The contents of one MRE truly would test the limits of one’s appetite: 1.5 ounce cheese spread, 1.2 tropical punch powder, 8 ounces of chicken, noodles, vegetables in sauce; salt, napkins, moist towelette, 1.5 ounces of peanut butter, two large crackers, a large cinnamon scone, and the coup d'etat — an individual flameless ration heater, which when water is added, heats food in 12 minutes.
Oh, and a spoon and two breath mints.
“I’m involved in Boy Scouts of America,” Nesci said. “A lot of Scouts we work with, they bring these MREs with them when we go camping and I’ve never seen one of my young Scouts — teenagers — who usually have a really aggressive appetite, I’ve never seen them able to finish a MRE.”
The day shelter at Middletown High School, on LaRosa Lane, off Newfield Street (Route 3) is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., with lunch served at noon and dinner at 5 p.m. MREs can be picked up during these hours.