FEMA tours South Shore Beach, other hard-hit places

Photos by Rich Dionne
South Shore Beach was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge. Photos by Rich Dionne South Shore Beach was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy's storm surge.

TIVERTON, LITTLE COMPTON — With power restored to all but a few Tiverton and Little Compton households by the end of last week, officials in the two communities turned to damage assessment. It wasn’t pretty.

Photos by Rich Dionne
South Shore Beach was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge.

Hurricane Sandy reduced Little Compton’s South Shore Beach to cobble and rocks, and little or no sand. Just last spring, the town had paid contractors nearly $70,000 in federal and local funds to repair damage done by Hurricane Irene.

Little Compton Beach Commissioner Pat Griffin estimates the damage done by Sandy to be in the $100,000 range, a preliminary estimate he said Saturday he communicated to Rhode Island and Federal Emergency Management Agency (RIEMA and FEMA) officials when they toured damaged sites in the area last Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Tiverton, “We’re in the clean-up phase,” said Tiverton Fire Department Chief Robert Lloyd, who doubles as the town’s emergency management director. “There was a lot of damage,” he said, “but the damage we received doesn’t compare with what happened in the southern part of the state. We were very fortunate.”

As of late last Friday, “the majority of roads have been cleared,” he said.

By Friday, power had been restored to most of the impacted 8,100 homes in Tiverton, fewer than 100 to be connected.

Chief Lloyd said that the process of restoring power to Tiverton had to be prioritized, to focus on four major transmission lines that run into Tiverton, which had to first be up and running before smaller lines could be reconnected.

On 8 Rod Way, he said, “there were so many trees down that it took two days to clear them. With a storm of this magnitude, to say we got this much back this quickly is pretty phenomenal.”

Chief Lloyd’s counterpart as director of emergency management in Little Compton is Little Compton Town Council President Robert Mushen. 

Apart from “significant damage” to South Shore Beach, “certainly major compared to other years,” Mr. Mushen noted damage done to the roadway around Round Pond, caused by blockage of the culvert that runs from there into Sakonnet Harbor.

The blockage was cleared, he said, but at one point the roadway above the culvert was “substantially submerged,”

Power outages in Little Compton “were significant compared to other towns in the East Bay,” Mr. Mushen said. As of early afternoon Thursday, he said, about 19 percent, or 511 of the 2,559 households in town, were still without power.

“It was wind damage, more than wind and rain” that caused the most harm in Little Compton, he said. Other than at the Round Pond roadway, “no other roadways were washed out, though most of the roads had trees down.”

Mr. Mushen met Thursday afternoon with the RIEMA and FEMA officials, and with Mr. Griffin and other local officials, and — in a two car caravan — inspected damaged sites in town.

A bit of fortuitous work with a backhoe on the Sunday before Sandy hit town Monday may have reduced wreckage at South Shore Beach. That was when beach commission officials cleared blockages in First Creek at the east end of the beach, allowing water to drain to the ocean from Tuniper Pond.

The creek clearing may have prevented a storm-caused overflow and a breach across the beach between the pond and the ocean, Mr. Griffin said. Sandy’s damage was “kind of on a par” with the Irene damage of last year, he said. “I thought we were out of the woods. It was the last thing I expected,” he said, about the one-two punch the beach sustained in the last two years..

Mr. Griffin said the RIEMA/FEMA tour last Thursday also inspected the damage to the breakwater at Sakonnet Harbor, the Round Pond culvert, and damage to the seawall at Lloyds Beach, which he pegged unofficially at an estimated $10,000.

Both Mr. Griffin and Mr. Mushen said that damage assessment will cover two broad categories: that to public property and losses to individual property owners.

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