Flooding prompts water rescues, stranded cars

September 26, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — As the state braces for thunderstorms throughout the day Wednesday, some residents along the coastline are still recovering from extensive flooding caused by Tuesday’s heavy rains.

First responders in cities throughout Fairfield County rescued dozens of people stranded in their homes or cars because of Tuesday’s flooding, the result of nonstop rain throughout most of the day.

City spokeswoman Rowena White said crews would head out Wednesday morning to assess the city and see if any measures need to be taken, including possible evacuations.

The rain started early Tuesday morning, but the flooding didn’t kick in until late afternoon. According to the city’s Emergency Operations Center, rain was falling at a rate of about 2 to 3 inches per hour between around 3:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.

“We’re working in conjunction with the fire department and we’re blocking some of the historically known areas for flooding,” Police Chief Armando Perez said around 5:40 p.m. “Officers are making on-site assessment for what’s going on.”

Between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., the city’s emergency responders were dispatched to more than 130 emergencies, ranging from cars in water to flooded roadways and basements, said a weather update from the city’s Emergency Operations Center, provided by police spokesman, Av Harris.

“Engine 1 left the firehouse at 4 p.m. and it hasn’t been back yet,” White said around 8:45 p.m.

Various intersections were closed down by police officers, including State Street and Iranistan Avenue, usually affected by flooding, along with streets that typically remain dry — like Park Avenue — that also saw drivers trapped on low-lying sections.

“This is probably going to go on until around 9 p.m. (Tuesday),” Perez said about 5:30 p.m. “Bridgeport Police Department is very vigilant. We’re here to make sure our citizens are safe.”

Once the number of water rescues started to die down about 6 p.m., first responders shifted their attention to rescuing people from flooded homes in the North End. City spokeswoman Rowena White said most of the house rescues were near Lakeside Drive. Two households in the area were evacuated, she said, though an exact number of people was not immediately available.

The water that flooded city roadways began to dissipate as of 7:45 p.m., the EOC weather update said.

“We are continuing to assess the damages,” the weather update said. “At this time we have Geraldine Johnson (school) on standby for a shelter.”

Perez said the best thing drivers can do when roadways are flooded is to just stay home.

“If you don’t have to be on the road, don’t,” he said.

In the early afternoon, two tractor trailer accidents on Interstate 95 caused heavy delays in Stratford and Bridgeport.

Around 2:20 p.m., a tractor trailer went off the road and down an embankment on I-95 south between Exits 34 and 32, closing southbound lanes for more than hour. Shortly after, at Exit 28 in Bridgeport, a tractor trailer jackknifed, closing all three lanes of I-95 south for about an hour. A state police dispatcher said neither incident caused serious injuries.

A flash flood warning that included cell phone alerts about 3:15 p.m. remained in effect until 7:45 p.m. Tuesday for southern Fairfield County.

But flooding quickly became a regional problem, with heavy rain in northern New Jersey and southern New York causing flooded roadways. Local transportation took a hit during the flooding as well.

Police patrolled the city in the night, looking for and answering calls of distress, Perez said. But they had their eyes open for more than that.

“Homeless people are vulnerable with weather like this; there’s a lot of people out there that don’t have refuge,” Perez said. “We’re finding them and we’re taking them to local shelters.”

In nearby Fairfield, fire officials begged residents to keep off the roads as water in flooded areas continued to rise into the evening.

“Units continue to respond to numerous flooding incidents in town,” officials said at 6:35 p.m. “Currently every unit in Fairfield is on a call.”

And though rain slowed down in the early evening hours, more rain was expected throughout the night.

“Water runoff is causing significant flooding around town. Numerous roads are impassable,” fire officials said.

Problems of extreme flooding seemed to be focused along the southern coastline of the state.

As of 9 p.m., there were 955 United Illuminating customers in the dark. Outages throughout most of Fairfield County didn’t reach beyond 55 households. Eversource reported 406 people in Bethel without power, which was likely caused by a tree that took down wires and a transformer in the early evening.

A Ridgefield police dispatcher said all roads in town were open. A tree and wires came down on Nashville Road in Bethel around 6:30 p.m., causing police to close the road between South Street and Nashville Extension.

A couple of roads in Danbury were closed by flooding. And Metro-North Railroad’s Danbury Branch of service was suspended around 5:40 p.m. because of “weather-related high water issues.” Customers of the train service were urged to find another form of transportation.

Update hourly