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Hoping Against Another Irene In West Hartford

  • Bart Dalley, of White River Junction, left, cuts limbs from a fallen tree on Old River Road in Hartford, while Tom Stickney, of Enfield, carries the brush and town Highway Supervisor Allyn Ricker uses a hand saw Monday. By evening, wind gusts had downed branches and trees and caused sporadic power outages.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Bart Dalley, of White River Junction, left, cuts limbs from a fallen tree on Old River Road in Hartford, while Tom Stickney, of Enfield, carries the brush and town Highway Supervisor Allyn Ricker uses a hand saw Monday. By evening, wind gusts had downed branches and trees and caused sporadic power outages.

    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Ben Pearson, of Norwich, climbs into the back of his car to retrieve his insurance papers after he and a friend were involved in a single-car rollover in Hartford on Monday afternoon. Pearson blamed high winds for the accident, which left both driver and passenger unhurt. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

    Ben Pearson, of Norwich, climbs into the back of his car to retrieve his insurance papers after he and a friend were involved in a single-car rollover in Hartford on Monday afternoon. Pearson blamed high winds for the accident, which left both driver and passenger unhurt.

    (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Green Mountain Power electrical technician Ryan Gray watches while lines are repaired on Christian Street in Hartford Monday night. A utility pole had broken after being struck by a downed tree.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Green Mountain Power electrical technician Ryan Gray watches while lines are repaired on Christian Street in Hartford Monday night. A utility pole had broken after being struck by a downed tree.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Danielle Paro waits in her car with her smart phone while utility workers repair lines down on Christian Street in Hartford Monday night. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Danielle Paro waits in her car with her smart phone while utility workers repair lines down on Christian Street in Hartford Monday night.

    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bart Dalley, of White River Junction, left, cuts limbs from a fallen tree on Old River Road in Hartford, while Tom Stickney, of Enfield, carries the brush and town Highway Supervisor Allyn Ricker uses a hand saw Monday. By evening, wind gusts had downed branches and trees and caused sporadic power outages.<br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Ben Pearson, of Norwich, climbs into the back of his car to retrieve his insurance papers after he and a friend were involved in a single-car rollover in Hartford on Monday afternoon. Pearson blamed high winds for the accident, which left both driver and passenger unhurt. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Sarah Priestap)
  • Green Mountain Power electrical technician Ryan Gray watches while lines are repaired on Christian Street in Hartford Monday night. A utility pole had broken after being struck by a downed tree.<br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Danielle Paro waits in her car with her smart phone while utility workers repair lines down on Christian Street in Hartford Monday night. <br/><br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

— Andy Hilliker has packed all his first floor belongings into a U-Haul in his driveway and attached a Coachmen camper attached to his red pick-up truck. If the water breaches Route 14 during Hurricane Sandy as it did during Tropical Storm Irene, he’ll be ready.

Last year Hilliker and his family left their West Hartford home and headed to a neighbor’s place on higher ground when water began rushing into his cellar. But this time he’ll be watching the White River’s water level more closely. If the water even touches the pavement of Route 14, Hilliker plans to be back at his neighbor’s, although this time with a camper in which to sleep.

“I’m not really scared, but I’m not taking any chances,” Hilliker said.The 30-year West Hartford resident said, more than a year after Irene dumped 13 inches of silt in his backyard, has nearly completed the repair work on his home, save for the outside siding. His lawn has grown back.

Many homes along Route 14 in West Hartford were flooded, along with the village library and West Hartford general store. Hilliker said he and his neighbors are weary of storm news, and he doesn’t think he could handle another deluge like Irene.

“I’m ready for it to be done with so we can get back to normal. We’re kind of on a hold here,” Hilliker said.

A few houses down the road, Lynda Hart and her husband Randy sat yesterday on the front porch of their unfinished house. The couple had to tear down their home after Tropical Storm Irene and start anew. Lynda Hart said she thinks it will be several weeks before she and her husband are able to move back into the home because they’re still waiting for the heating system to be installed.

Rebuilding their home has been Randy Hart’s full-time job since June.

The house frame has been elevated four-feet above the ground and the basement was built without windows. The Harts also secured anti-hurricane metal brackets on their rafters. The brackets are supposed to help prevent the rafters from ripping apart during high-velocity winds.

“It’ll be a true test to your building ability, Randy,” Lynda Hart said to her husband.

But Lynda Hart said she was never apprehensive about rebuilding her home on the river after Irene.

“We’re a little more apprehensive now,” Randy Hart interjected.

“Yea, a little more. I don’t want to redo this every year,” Lynda Hart said.

The Harts said they’ve had a difficult time figuring out how much they should prepare for Sandy. After all, hurricanes don’t come through New England that often. The Harts spent the last few days moving lumber, rakes, shovels and their grandchildren’s play set inside. But the Harts haven’t gone as far as Hilliker or other neighbors, who they’ve heard have been moving all their first floor furniture to the second floor.

“I can deal with snow,” Lynda Hart said. “I can deal with a few downed trees. But I don’t want to see the river up that high again ever.” A few minutes later, the Harts headed upstairs as gusts of wind blew leaves and dirt around their property. Lynda Hart glanced out the window just in time to see a large tree in her front yard fall onto Route 14.

“My goodness, I’m just glad it didn’t come down on the house,” Lynda Hart said as she stood near the street surveying the fallen tree, which momentarily knocked out power to her and nearby homes.

When Hilliker’s power went out, he walked down the road and met Lynda Hart.

“The thing is this wind is nothing compared to what we’re going to see,” Hilliker told Hart.

In Lebanon, Hanover Street Elementary School dismissed students at 1 p.m. yesterday. Christina Croteau, a mother of three children, all under age 6, waited for her kindergartener to emerge while standing outside the playground fence.

Behind her, dead leaves fluttered in loops and swirls across the parking as the wind picked up force. A public-address announcement from the office instructed teachers to close the shades on their classroom windows and make sure all computers were turned off.

“We have a lot of giant trees by our house, so I’m a little bit concerned,” said Croteau, whose family lives at the top of Winter Street, across Interstate 89 from the school. “We’ve stocked up on water and the gas tank from our grill is full.” Croteau said she popped out for what was planned to be a quick trip to Route 12A to purchase C- and D-sized batteries, but found that the Price Chopper grocery store and the Staples office supply store were all out.

From there, it was over to the BJ’s Wholesale Club, where the search ended successfully.

“I think some of us were a bit slow on the uptake,” Croteau said.

Another battery hunter was 22-year old Kellie Valentine of West Lebanon, who headed out in search of a flashlight and something to power it despite suffering from a nasty head cold. She found nothing satisfactory at Kmart, where she said the only hand-held lighting devices left by 2 p.m. were glow sticks.

“I figured if Kmart was out, then Walmart would be out, too, so I came here,” Valentine said, standing in the entryway of LaValley Building Supply off Airport Road. In one hand, she held a red flashlight that not only came with a pair of AA batteries, but could also be powered by AAA batteries if needed.

Jackson Schonberg, the chief of program development for the Upper Valley Disaster Animal Response Team, stopped off at Hartford High School, where the Red Cross has plans to open an emergency shelter if needed.

If the Red Cross finds it necessary to open the shelter, Schonberg and Upper Valley DART said they would bring their mobile equipment trailer, which would allow them to set up an animal shelter at the school.

Schonberg said the animals would be kept separate, but pet owners could visit their animals as needed.

“The big hope is that we won’t need it. But the other side is we’re ready,” Schonberg said.

As darkness fell on Christian Street in Wilder, electrical crews were tending to downed power lines while neighbors sat in the darkness of their homes. Down the street at Brookside Nursing Home, the generator had kicked on. Emergency lights were working in the hallway, the refrigerator was still on and oxygen tanks were working.

David Sheriden, the maintenance director, said things were working according to plan. He had checked the emergency kits last week to make sure they were full of power cords, flashlights, batteries, glow sticks and radios. “Everything’s pretty calm,” Sheriden said as seniors sat quietly in their darkened rooms.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223. Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com or 603-727-3227.