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On Irene's Anniversary, Recalling An Eerie Walk

Tropical Storm Irene struck Groton one year ago today, knocking down trees and power lines.

The Saturday before Tropical Storm Irene hit, Kathleen Burns walked through the quiet of Noank Shipyard.

It was gray, humid and still. They’d shut off the water, the fuel, the power and put away 130 boats in Noank and Mystic.

“I just remember taking a last walk through the yard and it was such an eerie feeling because it was so quiet,” said Burns, the general manager of Noank Shipyard, Inc.

Then the storm hit. Irene swept through Groton a year ago today, taking down trees and power lines and forcing evacuations because of the fear of flooding. More than 92 percent of the town lost power.

Emergency officials opened a shelter at Fitch High School, then a respite center at the Groton Senior Center so people could shower and get a hot meal. Volunteers, including Navy recruits, distributed food and water for days at Poquonnock Plains Park.

About 125 people stayed in the emergency shelter and more than 200 used the senior center, said Director of Emergency Management Joseph Sastre.

“I think the one major thing that really came out of it is I guess we need more people. More volunteers,”  Sastre said. “We did really well with volunteers and helping people out, whether it was it was distributing food (or) at the shelter. But if the storm had been much bigger, we would have run out of people. “

The storm delayed the start of school one day, until Thursday, Sept. 1.

It also took its toll on businesses.

had just received its deliveries for the Labor Day weekend when the power went out.

In a single day, it lost thousands of dollars in produce. Owner and the store manager drove meat to another store to try to hold it in the refrigerator.

But it was too late to save the business. The store closed on Labor Day.

“I stood in that store with Frank and cried,” Burns said. “Where they had been such an integral part of this community for so long and to have that outcome after such a disastrous week was devastating.”

Noank Community Market has since opened in its place.

Marinas also suffered losses due to the storm. Noank Shipyard provides boat fuel, so it essentially lost two weeks of business at the height of the season.

"That week without power seemed like it was endless," Burns said.

Sastre said in some cases, homes that lost power also lost water because they depend on wells. He said the town got through, but it also could have been a worse storm. For this reason, the town needs more people to help, he said.

“We were able to do everything we were able to do. But after awhile, people burn out and people have to take care of their families, too," Sastre said. "So we’ve got to come up with some ways to get more people to volunteer.”

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