By STEPHEN SINGER
EAST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ Residents of an East Haven beach front community battered by Tropical Storm Irene were hot or cold Monday to visiting U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, and other high ranking officials.
Some residents stood silently as a motorcade carrying Napolitano, Malloy, U.S. Sens. Joe Lieberman and Richard Blumenthal, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro drove off after a one-hour visit to the Long Island Sound community. A few expressed anger that the officials did not stop to talk to them about their homes that collapsed into rubble following the Aug. 28 storm.
“What about shaking hands with people who lost everything?” asked Paige Weinstein.
“We’ve been here for hours,” said Sara Auerbach, whose house was slammed onto the beach by the raging waters. “Nobody gives us an answer.”
But during the visit, Bob Bishop, who has had to move in with his in-laws because of damage to his home, was pleased to meet the governor, senators, congresswoman and member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet.
“It was a first,” he said. “It’s good to see them. I haven’t seen anyone in a week.”
Napolitano said officials are turning their attention to rebuilding beach front neighborhoods in East Haven and other Connecticut shoreline towns such as Branford, Fairfield and Milford. Federal Emergency Management Agency offices will be open in all eight counties by Thursday to assess damage and collect information from residents, she said.
“We will work in Connecticut. We will be in Connecticut,” she said. “We will be here for the recovery.”
Malloy said at a news conference in Hartford after the visit that he is ordering a review of the response to the storm, including the performance of the state’s utilities.
By Monday, eight days after the storm, about 2,100 customers of Connecticut Light & Power were still without electricity and 274 United Illuminating customers lacked power. At the peak of the outages, 830,000 customers were in the dark.
Officials said preliminary estimates show the storm cost state and local governments in Connecticut at least $15 million in overtime and damage to public buildings. FEMA said 132 homes were destroyed or significantly damaged and more than 300 homes suffered major damage.
Bishop, who was visiting his battered beach front house in East Haven where he has lived for five years, became the focus of attention as the group of officials asked him about the extent of the storm’s damage to his 87-year-old residence.
He said he considers himself lucky because his house is still structurally sound, though floors, walls and ceilings were heavily damaged.
The devastation along the beach extended into the waters of Long Island Sound, strewn with debris, an upended piece of furniture tangled in seaweed and a beer keg, surrounded by floating gulls, bobbing in the water.
One by one, the visiting officials crouched low to peer into a house that was thrust into the beach, its kitchen and other rooms meeting the sand.
Lieberman said the need for federal help demonstrates that hostility to Washington is misguided.
“If there was a time when the people of Cosey Beach need government, this is it,” he said.
Federal aid may be used to pay for rental housing while a home is being rebuilt and for medical or transportation costs. However, second homes do not qualify for federal help, uninsured losses are not covered and the federal government will not pay replacement costs.
Bishop said he’s confident despite the damage to his home.
“We’ll be all right,” he said.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)