From Oxford First Selectman Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers:
The Winter Storm of October 29, 2011 wreaked havoc on the Town of Oxford. What started out to look rather pretty and white on the trees and shrubs throughout our community soon turned our roads dangerous and developed into a town wide disaster. Wires were left hanging, utility poles and wonderful mature trees were blocking roads and dangerous tree limbs were balancing above. A real emergency situation and crisis hit the town. Many of our yards are still suffering from the aftereffects and the scenery of Oxford has changed.
This all happened on a weekend so school children and buses were out of harms way but it resulted in damage to a roof and equipment at Building 6 at Oxford Center School. The Quaker Farms School and the Oxford High School were converted into emergency shelter and shower facilities resulting in the close of the public school system. Public Works and Police personnel along with Emergency Responders and volunteer Firefighters are always the first ones called into action and the town’s highly competent Emergency Management Director (EMD), Scott Pelletier, takes control of coordinating each department’s activities. Our CodeRED emergency communication system once again became the means that many residents counted on for information and the newly created directional signs for “Emergency Shelter” and “Water Available Here” helped direct residents to necessary locations.
The aftermath of this winter storm has been chaotic and draining with long power outages for most which leaves residents without heat, without water, without power and all the resulting inconveniences. Phone service was lost to many leaving them feeling isolated. While local officials knew what to do and did it extremely well, most felt that their utility company let them down once again in the same fashion that had happened with Hurricane Irene just two months previous to this storm.
The work that goes on behind the eyes of the general public is immediate and is immense. I cannot address what the state or the major utility companies go through, but I can address what happens locally. The EMD, First Selectman and emergency responders are in immediate contact working together to assure our resident’ safety is addressed. Contact with regional agencies is established. Because of the devastation throughout the majority of the state, working with the Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is a necessity. Connecticut Light and Power’s regional coordinator is onboard immediately as well. Some of the decisions made following the earlier hurricane in Connecticut were implemented, such as assigning a liaison to the town to transfer information between the town and the utility company. Other action plan items were not yet ready to be realized such as immediately assigning a utility crew to each affected town in the state including Oxford. This must be done in any future events and should have been in place for October 29.
I can’t give enough praise to our local workers and volunteers for their outstanding dedication and unselfish response to the town of Oxford. You are remarkable individuals that go above and beyond what is asked of you. Most residents have understood the immensity of what happened in our town and reacted with civility and patience. A few have refused the offers of assistance made to them or felt the need to blame their inconveniences on the utility companies or on the town. To those few, little can be said to console them except that each situation is a learning curve for everyone involved. The town will always strive to do better for our own and it is our hope that working with, and insisting that the utility companies involved do a better job for their customers, it will result in improved performance on their part as well.
The clean up is extensive and will continue now for weeks or months until it is finalized. We will work with state and federal officials to address the positive and the negative of this event. We will continue to meet our local needs. We will bring information to our residents, just as we did following the hurricane, with news releases, public hearings and public meetings with FEMA officials and local residents.
It is the hope of your local officials that Oxford residents will have the conveniences that you deserve restored to your lives without further delay. We will continue our work to make this happen for you.
Mary Ann Drayton-Rogers