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New Canaan Emergency Management Officials Outline Plans as Irene Closes In (Video)

Residents in low-lying areas being asked to evacuate. Need shelter? Town will help care for your pets.

Residents living in low-lying areas of New Canaan are being asked to evacuate, a shelter has been established at Lapham Community Center and First Selectman Jeb Walker will sign a proclamation establishing the town in a state of emergency as leaders prepare for the impact of Hurricane Irene.

At a press conference held in the Emergency Operations Center at the on Saturday afternoon Director of Emergency Management Michael Handler said the town is taking preparations for the storm and its aftermath very seriously.

 “This is not a drill. This is the real thing,” he said. “This is an event unlike one we’ve seen in our past. We are fully staffed and ready to handle whatever comes our way.”

Handler said residents of approximately 300 residences in low-lying areas are being asked to evacuate. These residences, located in the vicinity of Valley Road, have experienced flooding in past storms. 

Emergency officials will go door-to-door to the 30-40 homes most at risk to ask residents to leave their homes. For now it's a voluntary evacuation.

"Attempting to evacuate during the storm will be dangerous at best, and rescue may not be possible," Handler said.

By early afternoon, two residents had moved in to a shelter at the that officials opened at noon on Saturday. The shelter can accommodate 30, and Handler said emergency management officials are investigating additional locations for shelters, should Lapham reach capacity.

Handler recommends that residents vacating their homes bring medications, food, linens and pillows to the shelter. He said the town has made , so residents need not worry about leaving them behind.

“If they bring their pets, the town will pick them up and will put them in a shelter,” Handler said.

About 20 calls have come in to an emergency call center that was activated Friday, Handler said. The call center will be manned 24-hours a-day as long as it is needed. Residents with questions can call 203-594-4100. Handler asks that residents only call 911 in the event of an immediate emergency.

The town created a Facebook page that will be updated in "real time" to provide residents with critical information about the storm, Board of Education Chair and emergency volunteer Nick Williams told Patch. It will be used to provide updates about road closings, evacuations and other critical information.

"Fire Chief Jack Hennessey used it to post a request to all residents with driveway gates to please leave the gates open for the duration of the storm," Williams said. Williams asked residents to follow the page for up-to-the-minute information.

The has tropical storm conditions arriving in New Canaan this evening, with the brunt of Irene hitting the area around 7 a.m. Sunday morning.

Police Commissioner and Deputy Director of Emergency Management Jim Cole said he asked the to cancel its Sunday morning services.

“The minister said ‘it’s not much for me to get next door. Anybody that wants to come, I’ll be there,’” Cole said.

Handler said officials and volunteers are prepared to work around the clock for as long as necessary during and after the storm.

“We are preparing to shelter our people here,” he said. “We are going to work in shifts. We’re preparing to be here for a while.”

For their part, Handler asked residents to plan on cancelling activities after 3:45 p.m. Saturday, and after the storm passes, to follow directions from emergency personnel.

“I can’t stress enough to stay away from downed power lines. Assume every line is live. Do not move downed barricades,” he said.

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