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Conn. Governor Malloy Issues ‘Katrina-Like Warning’ To Residents Who Defied Evacuation Orders

A boarded up structure in Fairfield, Conn. ahead of Hurricane Sandy's arrival - Oct. 29, 2012 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

A boarded up structure in Fairfield, Conn. ahead of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival – Oct. 29, 2012 (credit: Paul Murnane / WCBS 880)

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Superstorm Sandy

SOUTHPORT, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Gov. Dannel Malloy warned potentially thousands of residents who had been placed under evacuation orders may now be stranded in their homes.

At a news conference Monday night, Malloy urged anyone trapped in their home by water to move to the highest point possible. That includes the roof for those in single-floor homes, Malloy said.

“This is a rather Katrina-like warning that we are issuing to people who did not take the advice that was given to them earlier in this crisis,” Gov. Malloy said at a 9:15 p.m. news conference Monday night.

The reference evoked images of New Orleans residents standing on their roofs waiting to be rescued by helicopters in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“As of approximately 8:00, it was evident that our worst fears were being reached as a result of flooding conditions,” Malloy told reporters.

Malloy expressed his displeasure with local leaders who failed to get out the evacuation notices to residents ahead of time.

“It is also equally clear that even when people received those warnings that some of our citizens did not heed them and so we are now in a situation where we really need to talk directly and have talked directly to the cities and to our citizenry and have them get this message in any way that they can: if you are in a house that is inundated, get to a higher floor,” Malloy said.

“Do not be near a window because there is still a lot of wind and there’s nothing much good to see at the moment,” Malloy urges residents. “If your house is surrounded by water, your best and safest option right now is to remain in that house and move to a higher level of the house.”

Malloy also called for Greenwich and Bridgeport residents to evacuate if they can do so safely, ahead of the anticipated storm surge at high tide. High tide at Bridgeport was 11:58 p.m. Monday.

The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for a swimmer who went missing in Milford.

Authorities say 40-year-old Brian Bakunas was last seen swimming in heavy surf near the Walnut Beach Pier shortly before 8 p.m. on Monday.

The Coast Guard is urging people to stay away from beaches as Superstorm Sandy hits the area.

Earlier in the day, Connecticut National Guard officials say troops have responded to East Haven and Darien to help with flooding problems.

Col. John Whitford says troops are positioned Monday in East Haven in the Cosey Beach section, where many homes were damaged last year during Tropical Storm Irene. The Guard is helping to evacuate and keep people out of the area.

Guardsmen were also called to Darien to help with possible rescues in flooded areas.

Whitford says 1,100 National Guard soldiers and airmen are on duty. He says troops are stationed at armories across the state and are preparing to respond to any emergencies.

Iin New London, whipping winds around 4 p.m. made conditions too unsafe even for emergency workers, according to the mayor.

New London’s mayor has ordered police and other emergency workers off the streets as the winds from Hurricane Sandy pick up.

Mayor Daryl Finizio says he told fire, emergency medical workers, police and public works employees to go back to their staging areas Monday when sustained wind speeds exceeded 50 mph. He said winds are averaging 53 mph and gusting to 75.

He says the city is suspending all rides to area shelters and advising residents to stay where they are and to stay inside.

Gov. Malloy signed four executive orders on Monday to assist Connecticut’s recovery from Hurricane Sandy.

“Our first priority during this storm is public safety, but we also want to ensure efficient restoration efforts,” said Malloy. “Let’s be clear, it’s going to take awhile to get back to normal, but we are prepared to use all that we learned during the 2011 storms and the July statewide emergency drill to deal with the storm and address its aftermath.”

Executive Order 22 allows properly credentialed out-of-state telecommunications electrical workers to perform work in the state that is normally performed only by Connecticut licensed Public Service Technicians.

WEB EXTRARead The Executive Orders

Executive Order 23 extends the deadline for employers to file unemployment tax filings and payments. Documents that normally would have to be filed by November 1, 2012 may be filed by November 15, 2012.

Executive Order 24 extends from November 1, 2012 to November 15, 2012 the personal property tax declaration filed by businesses in Connecticut.

Executive Order 25 extends the deadline to file certain property tax exemption applications relating to farm machinery, classification of land as farmland, forest land, and open space land, and various other property tax exemptions listed in Section 12-81 of the General Statutes. Property tax exemptions normally filed by November 1, 2012 may be filed by November 15, 2012.

On Sunday, Malloy signed Executive Order 21 which extended the in-person voter registration deadline in Connecticut to Thursday, November 1, at 8 p.m. The deadline had been Tuesday, October 30.

Water from Long Island Sound spilled into roadways and towns along the Connecticut shoreline Monday, the first signs of flooding from a storm that threatens to deliver a devastating surge of seawater.

More than 500 people evacuated to shelters from low-lying areas, and officials urged those who stayed in vulnerable areas to seek higher ground before the shoreline is swamped by Hurricane Sandy. The Red Cross has set up 12 shelters across the state for anyone who has to evacuate.

About 360,000 people in 30 towns have been placed under mandatory or voluntary evacuation orders, according to state officials.

“The water’s got no place to go. It’s been pushed all the way up the coast into this funnel,” said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who was knocking on doors in the city as water began spilling onto lawns. “We’ve got to convince people this is very serious.”

Gov. Malloy ordered the closure of all state highways across Connecticut in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy’s arrival.

“This is the most catastrophic event that we have faced and been able to plan for in any of our lifetimes. And we continue to do everything in our power to make sure that we’re ready and that our citizens are fully cognizant of what they should be doing,” Malloy said.

State highways are now shut down to all traffic. Malloy implemented a two-part shutdown of the highways, first barring trucks as of 11 a.m. before the full closure took effect for all vehicles at 1 p.m.

WCBS 880 Connecticut Bureau Chief Fran Schneidau reports

“Residents need to take this storm very seriously. Beginning in the next several hours, wind gusts will begin to exceed 50 m.p.h., making traveling along our roads – especially wooded areas like the Merritt Parkway – very dangerous. We’re doing this in two phases, so that trucks will first be prohibited and then all non-emergency vehicles. If you’re in a non-evacuation area, stay home,” Malloy said in a news release.

Preparations are underway across Connecticut while memories of Irene’s wrath are still fresh in the minds of residents.

All mass transit in the state has been shut down. That includes Metro-North Railroad, Amtrak and buses.

Bradley International Airport closed at 1 p.m.

The University of Connecticut is closing Tuesday, joining a hundreds of other schools and school systems across the state. The closure includes UConn’s law school and the UConn Health Center, though the John Dempsey Hospital will remain open during the storm.

The Long Island Sound’s waves were surging in places like Fairfield and Bridgeport Monday morning. They’re expected to range from seven to 11 feet, roughly twice the surges recorded last year during Tropical Storm Irene.

The worst time is expected to be between Monday late afternoon and 3 a.m. Tuesday.

Forecasters say the storm surge could exceed nine feet in western Long Island Sound, driven party by a full moon and high tides, and officials fear winds from the hurricane will keep the water from draining at low tide. Officials say the flooding at high tide overnight could cause more damage than a 1938 New England hurricane, known as the Long Island Express.

Gov. Malloy said even after the storm surge, the flood waters pose dangers.

“Stay away from flood waters. Don’t walk in them, don’t drive through them, don’t do anything with them if at all possible. The water can easily become contaminated and will and does pose health risks,” Malloy said, about 12 hours before high tide is due to hit.

Shane Cassidy lives in a waterfront condo in Bridgeport’s Black Rock neighborhood and said he does not plan on heeding the evacuation warnings.

“Well we left last year for Irene but nothing too substantial happened. We are expecting worse but still, I don’t think it’s going to surge over the walls hopefully and we’ll be OK,” Cassidy told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.

Malloy said the storm surge is likely to cause serious damage overnight to sewer treatment plants and power substations. He said he is most concerned about the potential for loss of life along the water.

The facilities were designed to survive a 100-year flood and officials said Sandy could test that.

“At 11 feet, or anywhere near 11 feet, we’re going to lose power stations, we’re going to lose sewer treatment facilities, we’re going to do some long-term damage to the state of Connecticut,” Malloy said at a noontime news briefing. “We are still planning for 11 feet.”

Malloy said a favorable wind shift allowed the state to escape the morning’s high tide with only minor flooding at two Bridgeport substations, and both kept operating.

But United Illuminating vice president Tony Marone said, despite their best efforts, it is probable the company will have to shut one or two stations down Monday night, a move that would affect about 40,000 customers.

“We have sand bags, we’ve silicone-sealed the doors to the substations, we’ve got pumps in there to protect the control room,” he said.

Bill Quinlan, a senior vice president at Connecticut Light & Power said his company began building a dike Monday around its Stamford substation in an attempt to prevent flooding there. He said the company also is concerned about its Branford substation, but is not anticipating major problems at either facility.

Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia said city officials are concerned the storm surge could push water over a hurricane barrier built by the Army Corps of Engineers to protect the downtown area after hurricanes in 1938, 1955 and 1956. If the surge reaches 12 feet, it could push water over the barrier and flood downtown Stamford with water.

“That is something that we can’t even imagine,” Pavia said. “I always believed it was impregnable.”

Nearly half the residents in the 1,400 homes under mandatory evacuation orders had not left by Monday morning, Pavia said. City officials were asking them to leave again.

President Obama has already declared a state of emergency for Connecticut, which authorizes federal relief work to begin in advance of Sandy’s impact.

Murnane reported that even with Sandy hours away, her effects could be seen in Westport.

The wind has picked up and specks of rain are falling on windshields.

In Compo Beach, there was a six to eight-foot-high brand new sand berm that will be used to hold back the sound.

On the Post Road, there is a ghost town feel. Some businesses like gas stations are open.

On Main Street, which was wiped out by Irene a year ago, the manager of a clothing business had her staff in early this morning. They’re going to take all of their stock and try and raise it up high. They’ve put sandbags around the front door.

All of the businesses there have sandbags around the doors, plywood on basement doors.

HURRICANE SANDY: Track | Forecast & Alerts|Severe Weather Guide |School Closings | Send Us Your Pics | Listen Now1010 WINS | WCBS 880

Gov. Malloy said on Sunday that Sandy is the largest threat to human life the state has experienced in anyone’s lifetime.

There is a concern that some aren’t taking the threat seriously.

In Bridgeport, police and fire units will hit the streets this morning to get word to people who think they can ride this thing out.

Malloy has asked a task force preparing for Hurricane Sandy to ensure that fuel suppliers are fully supplied in Connecticut to avoid shortages.

Eugene A. Guilford Jr., president of the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association, says 1 million drivers arrived at 1,400 gas stations within a few days of the storm. He said in an email on Monday that the number is about three times the normal demand, creating inevitable spot shortages in Connecticut.

He said running out of fuel will be temporary, with gas stations resupplied each day.

Michael Fox, executive director of the Gasoline & Automotive Service Dealers of America told the Connecticut Post that a spike in demand and impacts from flooding that delay resupplies could cause a major inconvenience for motorists for several days.

Malloy has asked a task force to ensure fuel suppliers are fully stocked.

The number of power outages in Connecticut increased quickly as the massive hurricane hitting the East Coast began its approach to southern New England.

More than 495,000 CL&P customers were without electricity as of 11:30 p.m. That is about 40 percent of CL&P’s total customers, according to the utility.

Outages have multiplied over the course of the day Monday as conditions got precipitously worse.

CL&P is assuring customers and state officials that it has made significant improvements to avoid widespread outages similar to what followed the freak October snow storm that hit Connecticut last year.

Spokesman Al Lara of parent company Northeast Utilities says 1,060 line workers from out of state have arrived to help restore power. More are expected.

The United Illuminating Co., which serves shoreline towns that were hit hard by storm surges from Long Island Sound, reported more than 143,00 outages by 11:30 p.m. Monday.

How have you prepared for the storm? Share your story below.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)