In the 32 years they’ve lived in New Canaan, Lillian and Victor Zackay had never slept away from their West Road home when in town.
That streak—preserved through blizzards and hurricanes with a warm fire and, later, a generator—came to an end Thursday, when the couple “checked in” to the New Canaan YMCA to ride out what officials expect to be an extended power outage throughout town.
Sitting beside her husband, 92 and a stroke patient, with a bag from home that included books, clothes and personal items as well as a box of chocolate-covered strawberries that her sister had sent from California (a Halloween gift), Lillian reflected on her fate.
“We feel blessed,” she said with a smile. “I was reading the New York Times this morning at Rosie’s, where I’d taken Victor for a wonderful breakfast and cappuccino, and of course right there on the front page was New Jersey. Many people have lost their lives. Entire communities have burned. Iconic boardwalks no longer exist. I don’t feel there's anything to be disgruntled about.”
The Zackays’ was one of 5,759 New Canaan homes without power late Thursday. The couple also represent two of 15 residents expected to take shelter last night at the YMCA, according to Y
Membership Ambassador Linda Muscolino, who has been working at the South Avenue facility for 42 years.
A former town resident who moved to Stamford in 1976, Muscolino described the past few days as “hectic.”
As a cold front has swept in behind the extratropical storm, emergency officials have encouraged residents to take up the YMCA on its offer to serve as a shelter.
In the extended outages that followed Hurricane Irene last summer, more than 1,000 non-members came to the already popular spot for showers—and Nancy Follis, the Y’s director of membership, operations and communications said she expects the post-Sandy shower total to surpass that figure.
“In fact, we will surpass it by far,” Follis said.
The YMCA reopened Wednesday after losing power Monday night, Follis said, and sees its role in assisting needy residents as central to its mission.
“If anyone comes in our door, we are saying, ‘We’re glad to help you.’ We will meet the demand,” Follis said.
The demand could be strong.
After three full days negotiating fallen trees and limbs tangled with downed power lines throughout much of the town, officials say power restoration won’t start until this weekend. Though CL&P has pegged a Monday-Tuesday timeframe for restoration throughout the state, local officials are sticking to original estimates of 10 to 14 days without power based on the number of line and tree crews now on site.
The Zackays are undaunted.
A San Francisco native and retired professor emeritus of materials science and engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, as well as the engineering college’s associate dean, Victor said all he and Lillian need is power and light.
Lillian—whose native Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, has been decimated by Sandy—said that the shelter offers heat and a bed “and that’s all I need.”
“Of course we would prefer to be in our own home, but our home—our beautiful home—is still standing,” she said as Victor reached across for a chocolate-covered strawberry. “All we lost were two trees. Through all of this our friends have showered us with what I would call ‘protection.’ I feel very blessed.”