High winds and high seas swept away a bathhouse on Osprey Beach, toppled numerous trees, and left New London’s coastline inundated with debris after Hurricane Sandy passed through the area on Monday.
The bathhouse was elevated on pilings leading out into Long Island Sound. When Mayor Daryl Finizio toured the area on Monday night with his executive assistant Zak Leavy and Deputy Police Chief Peter Reichard, only the pilings remained.
Emergency Management Director Reid Burdick said the gray bathhouse had been part of the New London coast since he was growing up. He said he and several other residents remembered visiting the site in their youth, and that it was unclear whether it could be rebuilt under modern codes.
“It wasn’t flashy, it wasn’t modern, but it was an icon,” he said.
Finizio said he was glad to see that the residences along the shore had fared well despite the strong surf during the peak of the storm. Initial predictions said the storm surge from Sandy would be more powerful than the Hurricane of 1938, which caused extensive damage to New London.
“It looks like if this was the worst surge we’re going to get, at least we haven’t lost any of the houses themselves, which is good news and is better than what we originally expected,” said Finizio.
Burdick said there have not been any reports of deaths or major injuries in New London, but that the storm carried in more debris than he has seen in previous storms. Fire Chief Ron Samul also said the debris fields are some of the largest he has seen.
“We’re talking back in the 50s,” said Samul. “This is pretty bad.”
The coastal area along Pequot Ave. was the hardest hit. Greens Harbor Beach was flooded, with sand and debris on the far side of the road. Waves carried sand and debris over the seawall in the area of Osprey Beach and Guthrie Beach, littering the road with everything from wooden planks to toilet seat covers to appliances. Mott Ave. was covered with a layer of mud.
Sightseers crowded to Pequot Ave. on Tuesday morning to see the damage and waves, which were still larger than normal due to the continuing effects of the departing storm. Police officers eventually taped the area off and ordered people to stop walking in the street so crews could begin to clear the sand and debris.
“The spectators are really inhibiting the city’s ability to recover,” said Burdick.
Several boats at Burr’s Marina that had been taken out of the water appeared to have some damage after winds blew them over. At a beach near Electric Boat, a sailboat had washed ashore. This was the same beach where a schooner came ashore during Tropical Storm Irene and was later recovered.
A number of trees also fell in neighborhoods of southern New London, causing some structural damage to residences. One tree on Montauk Ave. uprooted a portion of the sidewalk and roadway as it fell.
Burdick said he thought the Emergency Operations Center and city employees worked well to keep residents informed and safe during the storm. He said there is “monumental” work to be done in recovering from the storm, but considered that municipal employees are enthusiastic about the task.
“I thought that after Irene the city crews did a herculean effort like I’ve never seen,” said Burdick. “They’re even better now than they were.”