They were the people who knew they had no choice but to go to work in the face of Hurricane Sandy. They recognized that when they left their own homes and families on October 29th, as the so-called “Frankenstorm” approached Fairfield County, their #1 priority must be to step up and provide for the needs of fellow Stamfordites also facing down the looming weather catastrophe.
The Stamford UAW represents over 400 various City of Stamford government employees, including 911 dispatchers, health inspectors, maintenance workers and administrative staff, all of whom played a crucial role in the recovery of the City of Stamford, CT in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
Within the three days during and after Hurricane Sandy, the city’s 911 dispatchers alone dealt with a flood of emergency calls at levels over ten times the daily average.
In preparation for what meteorologists were calling a “Frankenstorm”, employees of the Parks Department and the Facilities Management Department closed down and barricaded city beaches to prevent the curious from risking their lives and that of emergency crews.
The city set up emergency shelters ready to intake local families living within flood zones in this coastal city, or suffering damage to their homes. The evacuation shelters were set up and manned by employees of the Stamford Health Department at several Stamford public schools. Collectively the system housed well over 400 people taking shelter at Stamford High and another 213 at Rippowam Middle School, as reports say every nearby hotel room was booked.
“It was evident that our worst fears were being reached as a result of flooding conditions,” said Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy on October 29. “This is the most catastrophic event that we have faced and been able to plan for in any of our lifetimes,” Malloy said. Stamford effectuated reverse 911 evacuation calls, fire trucks and squad cars were all deployed to get the message out to residents that the evacuation was put in place.
Gloria Kelley, president of the Stamford UAW and a Stamford resident who worked throughout the night at an emergency evacuation shelter, said, “We registered residents coming in and set up cots for them, doing our best to keep families together and getting them anything they may need, including a meal.” Ms. Kelley, a professional nutritionist working at the Department of Health, explained that many of the union’s members worked almost around the clock for days on end. “Our main concern was getting all families impacted by this massive storm settled and as comfortable as can be under the circumstances.”
After Sandy struck, crews worked around the clock to clean up hundreds of tons of debris, including over 700 downed trees that closed off some one-third of Stamford’s streets, making them inaccessible for emergency services and trapping residents.
Traffic lights at several key intersections remained out of order for days. Traffic Maintenance and the Signal Division worked furiously to fix downed traffic signals and install temporary stop signs at dangerous and high traffic intersections.
Twelve days later, on November 9, Mayor Pavia finally lifted the city’s state of emergency.
“The role our city’s workforce played in getting prepared and responding to this emergency was critical in getting Stamford residents back in their homes as rapidly as possible. In light of the widespread destruction throughout Fairfield County and especially Stamford, UAW members and other city workers showed nothing short of a Herculean effort to pull the city back onto its feet,” said Ms. Kelley. “We need to acknowledge the many hundreds in our municipal workforce who played a crucial and highly visible role in helping the residents of Stamford overcome this ordeal.”