By Sarah Ellen Berman Photos by Chatschik (Dr. B) Bisdikian
Halloween snowmen may sound like fun but in reality they represented a nightmare for many inhabitants of the town of New Castle this fall. Two days before Halloween, heavy, wet snow began to fall in the afternoon and continued into the night. The weight of the snow took its toll on many wires and trees causing havoc everywhere. Around 6 p.m. that evening, the lights went out in about 4,000 homes. A state of emergency was declared.
On Tuesday, November 1, weather forecasters predicted a precipitous fall in temperatures. As Town Administrator Penelle Paderewski thought about the multitudes of residents still without power, she decided that it was time to open a shelter. During the day, many residents utilized electricity in various places in town including the library which ac- commodated a record crowd.
“We realized that in the evening there wasn’t a place for people to go,” Paderewski said. The community center on Senter Street was chosen, the heat piped up, and messages sent out on nixel and several media outlets to inform residents that the warming center was open.
Cots were set up on the first floor in the room usually reserved for exercise classes and parties. Paderewski as- sured skeptics that the cots were more than substantial; providing the com- fort of beds. In the room on the right, tea and coffee were served. Those seeking refuge were greeted by the friendly face of Josephine Bellantoni, a staff member of the Senior Center. “They really appreciated it,” she noted. Some watched television, others charged electronic devices and checked email. All reveled in the warmth.
Six people availed themselves of the services provided by the shelter on November 1 and 2. “If even one resident benefitted from it, it would be worth- while to do,” Paderewski noted.
The versatile community center also played a central role on Halloween. Trick or treaters remained determined to celebrate the holiday. The town offered a safe, warm environment for everyone. Wayne Bass, the Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Recreation and Parks, lined up a variety of games and secured many bags of candy. Paderewski manned the station where kids whacked a hammer, producing a resounded ring of a bell. “It was jam packed. The kids had a wonderful time,” Paderewski said.
Looking ahead to prepare for the next calamity, Paderewski focused on communication issues. “We need to get more people to sign up on nixel and we need better information from Con Edison.” During hurricane Irene, Con Edison had been more forthcom- ing with status updates. Paderewski will be pursuing this discrepancy with the company after power has been fully restored.
Lieutenant Dan Cannon– dubbed Lieutenant Dan after his name- sake in “Forrest Gump”–sent several nixel alerts during this trying time. One message ad- vised inhab- itants that showers were available at the high school. Lieutenant Dan has served on the New Castle Police Force for 29 years and has seen shelters opened in town approximately six times.
With appendages thawed out and power restored, intrepid reporter Sarah Ellen Berman rose to the occasion to document the assistance provided by the town.
Chatschik (Dr. B) Bisdikian, a computer scientist with IBM Research, is a 10 plus year resident of Chappaqua. He has been snapping photos, for the mere fun of it, on-and-off for over 35 years. On very rare occasions, he can be seen playing the drums at local music jam events, with photo and video cameras in tow, of course.
Editors’s Note: Stories of neighbors housing neighbors abounded with just about everyone willing to lend a hand during the unprecedented October outages. Many merchants offered various amenities to ease the burden. As we were going to press, for example, we heard about how the Crown House on King Street became “IPod and IPhone charging central,” noted Andrew Samalin of Samalin Investment Counsel, Inc., and that their doors were open too for the occasional shower.