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Irene’s wrath felt long after storm

September 1, 2011

By MARTHA SMITH
Special to the Standard

NORTH KINGSTOWN – On Monday, the day after Tropical Storm Irene did her worst, the village of Wickford and much of North Kingstown were dead, the result of power and phone outages.
Banks, restaurants, drug stores and the library were closed although, on Tuesday morning, the Rite-Aid on Brown Street was operating albeit in the dark. An employee said the store is powered by separate lines and all but the one providing light were working.
Tim Sharp, owner of the Beach Rose Café, on Brown, said, “I just threw away a dumpster full of food. I’m morally opposed to throwing food away.” He tried to reach the North Kingstown Food Pantry, at the United Methodist Church on Boston Neck Road, to donate his bread products but couldn’t get through because there was no power in that end of town either.
“Maybe I’ll drive over there,” he said.
At 180 West Main St., an enormous, stately old tree had been fatally wounded, split down the center, leaving parts of the trunk, huge limbs and piles of leaves strewn everywhere. The owner, who said he’d lived in the yellow Victorian house three decades but didn’t want to be identified, had been at work cutting the pieces into smaller sections.
Ultimately, he said, the entire tree “will have to come down.”
On Brown Street, the antiques store was boarded up with the message “RIP Wickford. Send Help” spray-painted on the wood. Sandbags were propped against the front door, apparently as a precaution against a tidal surge from the harbor which is actually behind Brown Street.
Next door, Green Ink’s owner had taken down the plywood window-protectors Monday afternoon but a sign in the window said the business was closed until the power is restored.
Around the corner, at the B. Thomas Gallery, on the boardwalk behind the Beach Rose, owner Ben Thomas was returning merchandise including framed, glass-covered photographs to shelves and walls.
“I took everything out,” he said. “I got scared.” Thomas said he wanted everything “to get back to what it was.”
Also Monday afternoon, some shops on Main Street were open and doing business although they had no power.
Susan Smith had opened Different Drummer and shoppers brought items to the front door to examine them in the sunlight.
With help from her mom, Sue, Lizzie Schriner, owner of Mermaid’s Purl yarn shop, removed the plywood installed by Lizzie’s boyfriend during Saturday afternoon’s rain. The store remained closed.
Beauty and the Bath was open and Kim Eldridge said, “I can run credit cards and the cash register manually. We’ve had a few sales.” The store’s mini-fridge sat open on the sidewalk out front receiving a mandatory airing-out after the power loss ruined its contents.
Village Reflections also was open without power but, amazingly, with a working landline telephone.
Across the street, at the corner of Main and Brown, an employee of the Book Garden was setting out a sidewalk display of antiques and books. Inside, it was dark.
“We’re sort of open,” she said. “We’re all trying to clean up a little.” The biggest problem, she noted, was “there’s no place to eat.”
That issue was alleviated somewhat on Tuesday morning after power came on in a hodgepodge of areas including lower Brown Street, enabling the Wickford Diner to open. Power was also restored to the neighborhood around the Beechwood and in parts of the Annaquatucket area.
Interestingly, while homes along the north side of Fairway and into Annaquatucket regained power at 4 a.m., the other side – including the high school and school administration building – still needed emergency generators.
Although power was still out in the Hamilton area as of press time, electricity was restored throughout most of town by yesterday morning.
Saunderstown never lost power, adding to the evidence that there was no rhyme or reason to which parts of town went dark and which didn’t.
Throughout town, storm survivors in search of a hot cup of coffee Monday morning were doomed to frustration. Foodie’s on West Main had none, Honeydew Donuts on Post Road near the intersection into town was offering iced decaf only and Dave’s Marketplace, on Tower Hill Road – where hot coffee is always free to shoppers – was closed.
Usual customers rushed, instead, to Dave’s at the Quonset Gateway plaza, where business was booming.
At the Quonset Air Museum, Executive Director Dave Payne said the storm “picked up and tore to pieces” the new $50,000 roof.
The Shell Station and mini-mart at the corner of Post Road and Camp Avenue was doing a land-office business. The clerk, who had a small pot of coffee going, said she was “crazy busy” selling gas, bags of ice and other necessities. She believed she was the only operating station between Newport and South Kingstown.
On Ten Rod Road there were at least three hot spots: Dunkin’ Donuts had drive-thru patrons wound around the building and through the parking lot; across the road, Stop ‘n’ Shop was packed and, further west, Walmart was as busy as a beehive.
Throughout town, traffic lights were out including all along busy Post Road from Quonset south. National Guardsmen directed traffic at major intersections including Tower Hill and Ten Rod roads and Ten Rod and Route 2.
In other places, it was every man for himself. At the entrance to the Walmart and Staple’s plaza, for instance, drivers approaching from east and west played chicken.
By contrast, motorists treated the intersection of Post Road, Tower Hill and West Main as a three-way stop, politely taking turns.

Martha Smith is an award-winning journalist and author. Retired, she is an independent contractor for SRIN and can be reached at mgs3dachs@cox.net.

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