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Easton, Don't Touch Wires Knocked Down by Irene

EASTON, Conn. – Strong winds headed to Easton can cause trees to crash into roads and fell live wires hot enough to burn the pavement.

"You can't see, hear or smell electricity, but it will kill you," warned Ed Nagy, director of Easton's Public Works Department. "Don't touch anything – the No. 1 thing is to stay away from wires."

It's not where the storm hits but where the tree is located that determines if it is going to be knocked down, said Richard McLaughlin, Easton's tree warden.

"Because it's a heavily wooded area along the roadside, very often trees will help each other in holding each other up – kind of like leaning on someone for help," said McLaughlin. "I'm expecting a lot of damage, but I'm hoping for anything but 120 mile per hour winds."

McLaughlin said 120 mph winds can cause double the damage of 100 mph winds. He said the nor'easters Easton often experiences in the winter  average 60 to 80 mph winds. "For every 20 mph more, double the damage," said McLaughlin.

The Easton Public Works Department is ready to go. There’s plenty of fuel, the machinery has been checked and the chainsaws are ready, said Ed Nagy, director. When trees come down and wires are involved, the Public Works Department can't swing into action until the area has been cleared by United Illuminating, Nagy said – public works doesn't go near wires.

Even though United Illuminating may shut power off, Nagy warned that residents have generators that can back-feed electricity into the wires at a high voltage.

McLaughlin said he is compiling a list of hazardous trees and branches for the highway department to take down in the winter, when it normally completes maintenance work. Oaks and sugar maples are strong and unlikely to break, he said. Nut trees, like walnuts, hickories and beeches, are unlikely to uproot because of their tap roots. Structurally weaker trees include birches, red maples and sassafras.

"The danger with hurricanes is the fact that leaves haven't fallen off of the trees. Deciduous trees are particularly vulnerable because of the surface area with leaves on them," said McLaughlin. Leaves falling off trees before autumn can be a problem for the trees in regards to the photosynthesis process and sugar making. However, the buds have mostly already started to set, so if the trees lose their leaves now it will do only minimal damage to the health of the tree, McLaughlin said.

Nagy was working during Hurricane Gloria and said most of the town had power restored within three days, although some areas were out up to nine days.

"There were a lot of trees ... I don't know how many weeks we cleaned up after that," said Nagy.

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