One week ago Tropical Storm Irene made landfall along the Connecticut coastline, battering several of the towns along the shoreline — with East Haven suffering .
Today, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was in East Haven to tour storm-damaged areas and to deliver the message that the federal government is here to help residents as they rebuild after Irene.
"We will be here for the recovery," she said.
Napolitano also pledged to work with the town and the Army Corps of Engineers in facilitating the construction of a new sea wall along the East Haven shoreline to help provide better protection against the fury of future storms.
"That's our goal," she said of the new sea wall.
East Haven Mayor April Capone told Napolitano that, prior to her administration, there had been some discussions about building a new sea wall, but the project never moved forward.
"A new sea wall will certainly help," Capone told Napolitano as they talked on the beach Monday.
In addition, Napolitano said the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which falls underneath the Homeland Security Department umbrella, will have several local recovery offices throughout Connecticut — including an office in East Haven, which is expected to open sometime later next week.
"This is a neighborhood, in the best sense of the word," she said of East Haven.
"There is a lot of energy here, a lot of good will… and we will work together as a team," Napolitano said.
In addition to Capone, the secretary was accompanied on her tour of the East Haven shore by Gov. Dannel Malloy, U.S. Sen. Robert Blumenthal and Sen. Joseph Lieberman, as well as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-3rd).
Many East Haven police and fire officials were also on hand, as well as some area residents.
Monday morning's visit by Napolitano comes on the heals of a at Saturday morning, which was attended by hundreds of residents and business owners seeking guidance with their individual recovery efforts.
Napolitano said she had seen pictures of the devastation in East Haven, but the late morning walk along the town's shoreline gave her a greater grasp of the storm damage here.
"This confirms what I'd seen," she said.
Napolitano urged residents who suffered damage during the storm to register for FEMA's disaster assistance.
Connecticut was by President Barack Obama earlier this week.
Under the federal disaster declaration all eight of the state’s counties qualify for federal Individual Assistance, which can provide aid to individuals and households.
"It's designed to give people a start, who have no other coverage," she said of the federal program.
All eight counties have also qualified for individual financial and direct assistance (repairs, temporary housing).
Residents can register with FEMA online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA. More information about FEMA disaster assistance can be found online, and a guide for applying for disaster assistance can be found in PDF form here.
During the tour, Napolitano stopped to talk with one beach house owner, Robert Bishop, who was outside working on his 250 Cosey Beach Avenue home, which sustained significant damage during last weekend's storm.
Bishop said when the high tide rolled in late last Sunday morning, the waves came crashing in up to the house's second story windows.
"I've got sand in my blinds on the second floor," he said, adding that he had boarded up all his home's windows, but it did little to keep the water out due to the intensity of the storm surge.
"The first floor is a total loss," Bishop told Napolitano.
"It was a scary hour," he said.
During her talk at the beach, Napolitano also had high praise for the performance of both state and local officials before, during and after the storm.
"You've had great leadership here," she said.
All of the political leaders present at Monday's tour said they will continue to do what they can to support East Haven, as well as the rest of the state's residents, during the entire storm recovery process.
"The federal government is going to stick with you," Lieberman said.
Capone said she, too, will continue to work with state and federal officials to ensure East Haven receives the funding and assistance its residents need to facilitate and complete the town's recovery effort.
"And I'm not afraid to ask for it," she said.