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Weather, Blackout Storm Easton's Top Stories

Wild weather devastated Easton throughout 2011, there was a blizzard in January, an earthquake and tropical storm in August and a freak snowstorm in October. Photo Credit: File
The 2011 municipal election led to the three-peat by First Selectman Thomas Herrmann. It was an unusual election with Herrmann pitted against two write-in candidates. Photo Credit: Erin Lynch
Marica Dacey, 22, was crowned a hero by Westport police after she, along with a co-worker, helped police track down a suspected murderer from Massachusetts. Photo Credit:

EASTON, Conn. – It was a strange year in Easton. In 2011, the town was bombarded with every weather pattern imaginable, debilitating townwide blackouts, a tragic death, a new political candidate and an unlikely hero.

These are the top five stories in Easton for 2011 :

Blizzards and Hurricanes

It’s been one heck of year for wacky weather in Easton; the area was hit with major blizzards in January - and then an earthquake, tropical storm and rare fall snowstorm within just a few months later in the year.

We should have known from the start of 2011 that it was going to be a tough year weatherwise when the region was hit with nonstop snowstorms in January. The snow disrupted everything, repeatedly closing Town Hall, school and roads, canceling events and knocking out power. It even pushed back the graduation date for Joel Barlow High School.

A 5.9-magnitude earthquake struck near Mineral, Va., on Aug. 23. The quake sent shock waves up and down the East Coast that were felt even by residents at the General Store on Sport Hill Road.

Just a few days after the quake, Tropical Storm Irene wrecked havoc across Easton, leaving downed trees and power outages in her path. The damage caused by Irene also forced the Easton school district to postpone the first day of school.

If that wasn’t enough, just three months later a rare and unusual snowstorm struck the region just before Halloween. Easton was hammered with snow, ice and high winds that took down many trees and again knocked out power for several days. The destruction was so bad that Easton schools were canceled for days.

Call it global warming, call it just bad luck - either way, Eastonites seem more prepared than ever to take on Old Man Winter.

The Blackouts

Throughout 2011 it seemed that every time a severe storm struck Easton, residents faced blackouts . During the blizzards, the tropical storm and the snow, the wind would come through Easton, toppling tree onto power lines and knocking out power - in some cases for a week.

This led to a rift between First Selectman Thomas Herrmann and the United Illuminating Co. Tropical Storm Irene left 2,200 homes in the dark, and the October storm knocked out power to nearly 1,100.

During the October snowstorm, many area seniors had to take refuge at the Easton Senior Center, where they were guaranteed a warm bed and a hot cup of coffee. Town officials also opened up warming shelters at Helen Keller Middle School so residents could charge cellphones and laptops and take much-needed hot showers.

The Tragedy

The year also started with tragedy when Robert Smuniewski , 18, was killed in the early morning hours of Jan. 8. He was struck by a car on Sport Hill Road.

There were conflicting reports as to what exactly happened that night. Easton police said Smuniewski was either riding or pushing his ATV when he was hit by a 1991 Honda Accord driven by Stewart Lahey, 84 of Bridgeport.

Students at Barlow honored Smuniewski's memory by dressing in his trademark style, which included dress pants and button-down shirt, school officials said.

Outsider Candidates

While there wasn’t much of a shakeup at the polls this year with the re-election of First Selectman Thomas Herrmann, the 2011 race saw a new kind of candidate emerge: the write-in candidate.

Herrmann was re-elected for his third term against two write-in candidates: Richard Seclow, a Republican, and Robert Webbe, who was unaffiliated. Herrmann won with 1,095 votes. Webbe received 326 votes and Seclow earned 18.

It was an easy win for Herrmann but proved to be a race showing that Easton residents will consider outsider candidates.

As with most municipal elections, the turnout rate was low - only 34 percent of Easton registered voters hit the polls.

The Hero

A hero in the form of 22-year-old Marica Dacey emerged to help capture a suspected murderer in Westport.

Dacey and co-worker Erin Meaney were responsible for the capture of Thomas Gardner in November after police in Westport and Fairfield had been searching for him for five hours. They spotted him pacing outside the Westport store where they work. Gardner is a suspect in the murder of 36-year-old Michael Duarte in his hometown of New Bedford, Mass.

We feel Dacey earns a top nod in our Top Stories of 2011 not just for her heroic acts, but because she told us she was just doing her job as an American living in the post-9/11 world.

“I really hope this rings a bell in someone’s head, I hope this makes an impression on someone, so if this were to happen again, it makes someone else speak up,” she said. “A better part of my life I have heard, 'If you see something, say something,' and that is just what I did."

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