A and more than 20 feet of snow greeted during his first winter as the town’s Next came . Learn how he and his team handled downed trees and broken roads during the storm and in the weeks and month following.
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Branford Patch: Your first season as the town’s Public Works Director was met with the winter of 2010-11 where we had snowstorm after snowstorm. Next Irene wrecked havoc on the roadways and coastline. Did the winter prepare you for Irene? Can you compare the two?
Art Baker: I don't think you can ever fully prepare for a hurricane. It is very difficult to predict where your resources will be most needed for road washouts and roads blocked by trees unlike a snowstorm where we have predetermined routes and equipment to remove snow from each of those routes.
Branford Patch: Not only are you the Public Works Director, but you’re also the town’s Tree Warden. How many trees do you estimate that we lost in Irene?
Art Baker: Approximately 150.
Branford Patch: We know the town’s first-ever was planted at after the storm through a donation; were there any other trees replaced around town that were lost in Irene?
Art Baker: Not necessarily replaced however Branford is fortunate enough to have a budget that supports the planting of trees. We planted approximately 65 trees last year and we are choosing trees that are a good mix of native and non-native and most importantly best suited for roadside trees.
Branford Patch: We know that where was their main focus around town? Have your crews been doing any tree trimming or storm preparations?
Art Baker: CL&P did aggressive trimming on three of their main circuits in town. DPW has done some selective trimming including the trees in the center of town that were blocking lights and interfering with buildings. We plan to do much more trimming of low branches over the roadways if we acquire a bucket truck in September.
Branford Patch: Last year pubic works had sand available to residents who wanted to fill bags. Do you still have that and what are the rules for taking it?
Art Baker: Residents can contact the Highway Dept. to arrange pick up of bags. There is limited quantity now but should another tropical storm or hurricane threaten then we would make more available.
Branford Patch: We know the town dump operated on extended hours for residents who had to purge lots of items and debris after the storm. How did you guys process the stuff? Was anything salvageable?
Art Baker: All wood debris was ground up to make mulch that is available to residents free of charge. The additional trash that was generated was disposed of normally to the trash to energy plant in Bristol.
Branford Patch: There has always been some discrepancy around town about state roads and local roads; did you find that challenging at all when it came to repairing the roadway after Irene?
Art Baker: I still find that a challenge. We have roads with the same name that are part town and part state road. We typically only maintain town owned roads as the CTDOT maintains their roads.
Branford Patch: Would you say more roadway damage was caused by the storm surge or by trees falling here in Branford?
Art Baker: The most damage was caused by storm surge, especially at high tide. The trees didn’t do too much damage to the roads, they did however damage a lot of CL&P's infrastructure. However they were the biggest inconvenience to the public until we could clear and pickup all the debris.
Branford Patch: What was one thing you are most proud of your crews for doing during Irene?
Art Baker: The DPW crews did an excellent job at not only working around the clock to make roads safe but without any injuries! With all the potential hazards with downed wires and private generators i commend them for getting the work done and going home safely to their families.
Branford Patch: What was the biggest challenge for your crews during or after the storm?
Art Baker: Keeping the DPW crews well rested and well fed as well as making sure all of their own families were safe.
Branford Patch: What was the biggest takeaway from this storm?
Art Baker: I'll take a snowstorm over a hurricane any day!