Middletown got a lashing this morning from Hurricane Irene, whose drenching rains and punishing winds still packed enough punch to tear off limbs and topple trees in this city of 48,000.
A weakened but still wild Irene roared through town in the hours before noon, knocking out power to some 9,000 homes, including the city’s Emergency Operations Center on Cross Street, which was forced to switch on generators.
Still, the view around town was that Middletown was spared the worst of Irene’s wrath.
“I think we got lucky,” said city resident Beth Emery, who was enjoying a coffee at Klekolo World Coffee on Court Street, as the storm subsided. “I’ve seen some down tree branches, and a few trees. It could have been much worse.”
Across town at Neon Deli on Cross Street, near Wesleyan University, a weary but relieved John Parker, the city’s chief building official, was buying grinders for city crews manning the Emergency Operations Center, at the nearby Cross Street Fire Station. Many had been up most of the night.
Parker said he thought Middletown fared pretty well compared to other communities, where all of the homes were still without power. “The city’s public works department is out cleaning up,” Parker said. “There’s a report of a tree vs. house, and 9,000 homes have lost power. But we’re managing.” There were no reported injuries, he said.
Down at Harborpark, a few gathered on the boardwalk to marvel at the storm-tossed Connecticut River, which was running high and brown and heavy with debris. Two U.S. Coast Guard harbor tugs were tied up at the pier with their engines rumbling. No flooding was observed as of noon, but the river is expected to rise later in the week.
Back on Washington Street, a small crowd stopped to stare at a 70-foot old elm tree that had been uprooted by the storm and was lying prone on a front lawn several feet from a house. A few had friends snap pictures of them with cell phones in front of the fallen giant.
Around 3 p.m., the sun started to break through the clouds but there were still remnant gusts of wind tossing the trees.