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Bridgeport Drenched, muddied and watching the sky

October 12, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — Wallace Court has weathered a lot of storms since its tidy homes were first built more than 130 years ago. But the recent rash of heavy rain has made an ordeal of living on the dead-end street.

And that neighborhood is not alone. As more rain fell Thursday, many Bridgeport residents were contending with heavy damage left by floods on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.

“It’s always bad down here when it rains a lot,” said Pedro Quiroga, who has lived on Wallace Court, in the city’s West Side, for 17 years. “It has gotten worse over the years, and every time it rains we’re always worried.”

“That is a flood zone,” Scott Appleby, director of Bridgeport’s Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, said of Wallace Court, “And that area is actually below the high-tide line, along with Seaside Village, so it’s always been vulnerable.”

On Sept. 25, between 5 and 7 inches of rain fell on Bridgeport, causing stream and street flooding. Scores of motorists were stranded and many more were left to deal with flooded basements.

“The amount of rain that we experienced that day — more than 5 inches over two hours — there’s really not much we can do to prevent flooding in that kind of scenario,” Appleby.

Many scientists point to climate change as the force behind the extreme weather here and around the world.

“There’s no question that we’re seeing more significant and severe weather events now — not just here, but around the world,” Appleby said. “So it behooves us to prepare your home for flooding and take other steps to deal with these events.”

But people who live on Renwick Drive, a dead-end road with few homes, say that weeks after Bridgeport’s hard rains, they still need help.

Mary Stephens said she and her husband have lived on Renwick Drive, which runs parallel to the Rooster River, for more than 30 years.

“We’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.

Stephens said her family lost three cars to damage from the Sept. 25 storm and were only able to save one — which served as their getaway vehicle. Her home is uninhabitable, and she and her husband have been living in a hotel.

“Everything is gone,” Stephens said Thursday, standing in her living room while cleaners sprayed chemicals on the walls to kill and prevent mold.

“I wish there was something we could have done,” Stephens said, holding back tears and taking a deep breath. “I try not to cry; it’s just been so difficult, and it’s nowhere near over.”

She said her insurancecovered a fraction of the damage, and she and her husband will “be in debt until we die” to cover the cost of repairs.

Nelson Magtangob, who has lived down the street from Stephens for about 15 years, said the surge of the water caved in the cement foundation of his home.

A layer of mud, several inches deep, still coated Magtangob’s basement floor Thursday, and there was mold visible on the railing of his basement stairs.

“It’s never been this bad,” he said. “We survived through (Superstorm) Sandy and only got some flooding — nothing like what we saw that day.”

Magtangob pointed to a water line on the ceiling of his basement, more than 8 feet from the floor.

“It took days for that water to recede,” he said.

Christine Voight, who lives two houses down from Magtangob, said her two chickens drowned when the flood waters rose.

“No one has come by,” Voight claimed, referring to city officials. “It’s going to continue to flood. They have to come by and clean the street.”

City officials could not immediately be reached Thursday for comment on street cleaning of flooded areas.

Nearly every home on Renwick Drive had to rent Dumpsters to fill with the ruins of the Sept. 25 flooding. Some of those containers still sit at the end of yards and driveways, as residents filter through what can and can’t be salvaged.

People who live on Renwick Drive and Wallace Court say they want to see something done.

“What I really want is for the (Water Pollution Control Authority) to clean out the storm drain that has silted up since it was last cleaned a couple years back,” Quiroga said.

His neighbor, Evelyn Desir, said she had 14 inches of water in her basement during the Oct. 2 storm.

“The insurance company doesn’t want to help us out,” Desir said. “Why am I paying for flood insurance if they won’t pay?”

Desir said that the family’s cars were damaged. And there’s that musty smell that seems to be everywhere.

“This is the first time I’ve seen it this bad — and I bought this house 10 years ago,” she said.

Meanwhile, residents nervously await more downpours.

“We’re always looking up at the sky down here, wondering when the next flood is going to happen,” Quiroga said.

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