Category Archives: new england

What I learned from Irene

Treeonvan

Last week into the weekend, the Caribbean and Eastern seaboard had an unwelcome guest: Irene. And, wow, was she ever ill-behaved.

There are those who scoff at Irene and media exuberance in covering her journey. Sure, those scenes of reporters nearly getting blown away in hurricane winds are a dime a dozen. But for those not impacted to scoff at a storm that killed 27 people adds insult to injury for those suffering in Irene’s wake.

Although Irene had weakened to a tropical storm by the time she reached Connecticut, she was all too memorable for many areas of the state: Beachfront homes destroyed by storm surge, freshwater flooding, numerous trees downed (many landing on homes) and 700,000 Connecticut households left without power…. not to mention post-storm flooding. For a clear, intelligent explanation of Irene and her impacts in Connecticut, I highly recommend Ryan Hanrahan’s post Irene — Why Was She So Bad?

I learned a lot before/during/after Irene:

Take authorities’ preparedness warnings seriously

  • I was lucky, my only damage was a blown-over shrub. I lost Comcast service for just a few hours and never lost power.
  • As I see damage reports from around Connecticut, it’s truly a case of “but for the grace of God, go I.” The human and property cost experienced by others could just as easily have happened to me.

When preparing for inclement weather, ask friends to send you mobile-friendly links.

  • Even if mobile networks are up, expect them to be much slower than usual.
  • When it comes to clicking links on a slow network, Tom Petty was right… the waiting is the hardest part.

Often recommended (with good reason), use text messaging to contact friends & family

  • Text messages queue up and continue to to attempt delivery until successful

Provide loved ones with trusted news sources (links) so they can monitor the situation from afar.

  • I mentioned Ryan Hanrahan’s blog above — I provided it to family so they could stay abreast of what’s happening locally.

Do what you can to reduce your own stress during the weather event

  • I had a fan running during the storm. It provided white noise, and let me better ignore some of the wind gusts.
  • Of course, at a certain point, there was no drowning out the wind noise. Still, running a fan helped a bit.

Buying a house you love costs the price of the house. Having great neighbors who will help you when needed? Priceless.

  • Help your neighbors whenever you can. Cultivate those relationships. Your neighbors become an extended family, especially when you live alone.

Share your stuff.

  • If your friend or neighbor has lost power or Internet, help them achieve some sense of normalcy.
  • If you have a tablet w/3g connectivity or battery-powered radio, share it with them so they can keep up with news. Being off the grid involuntarily increases one’s need to be informed.

And a point that seems to be all too obvious: If you weren’t negatively impacted by a weather event, great!!

  • However, be sensitive to others’ experience of the storm. Don’t add to their misery.

This last week has been interesting, and reinforced some basic lessons for me. For those impacted by Irene, whether due to loss of a loved one, property damage, storm surge or flooding, my heart goes out to you.

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A kid, an off-duty cop, and a community’s outrage

henry dangA few days ago, I wrote about teen Henry Dang’s tragic death and disturbing details about the actions of the off-duty cop who hit him and others on the Windsor Locks police force.

This case continues to unfold. Initially, the off-duty cop’s lawyer stated his client hadn’t been drinking. This assertion is clearly disputed by witness accounts and tavern surveillance video.

Now, the Hartford Courant is reporting the off-duty cop’s lawyer has said the accident was “unavoidable” and that whether (the off-duty cop) was intoxicated or not was irrelevant.

Really? I wonder how well that rationale will work for other drivers stopped for driving while impaired. Is the fact that State Police investigators determined the off-duty cop was driving 73mph, over twice the posted 35mph speed limit,  irrelevant? How does this assertion reconcile with the fact that a witness driving the opposite direction on the same street at the time, was able to see Henry on his bike, and then heard the collision?

During the off-duty cop’s initial court appearance today, “Not Guilty” pleas were entered, as well as request for a jury trial. These pleas seem routine, and it’s difficult to see how the abundance of evidence uncovered by the State Police outlined in the arrest warrant can be ignored once the case goes to trial.

According to the Hartford Courant, , the case has been assigned to Judge David P. Gold. From the Courant: Gold [ ] handles the most serious crimes in the Hartford Judicial District. Most defendants are arraigned in a lower court and then Gold reviews the cases and decides whether to advance them to the more serious docket. But the seriousness of the case propelled it immediately to Gold’s courtroom.

This case is reminiscent of the recent Hayes trial in the way the community has responded with intense passion. News videos feature comments from community members questioning why the off-duty cop was treated differently by police than other drivers.

Online articles posted by news outlets like the Hartford Courant and WTNH receive hundreds of comments questioning the actions of the off-duty cop and decrying suspected cover-up by the Windsor Locks PD.

The online comments are intelligent and thought provoking. Here are excerpts from just a few:

A new police candidate who admits to abusing drugs or alcohol or worse, driving impaired is disqualified from the process. There are certain actions that are auto DQ such as domestic violence, drug sales, or other acts that would reflect a negative image. During the interview process you are questioned on situations where your actions could be compromised. This event is text book on what not to do. (Excerpt from comment posted by West Haven Drunk Cop @ wtnh.com)

If the public sees this case as more than just great blog material we MUST stay with this story until the very end. Why? Because the defense is already setting up the playing board so that his client will suffer as little damage as possible when this is said and done. (Excerpt from comment posted by Chucky @ wtnh.com)

I guess that’s why I’m blogging about this tragic story. I can’t do anything to help bring Henry back, but I can blog in an effort to ensure his story doesn’t fade away.

Disturbing allegations emerge following investigation of Windsor Locks accident that left 15-year old bicyclist dead

henry dangI normally write about movies and mobile tech. But sometimes a story is so heartbreaking that writing is the only way to process it emotionally….

Henry Dang, the 15-year-old Windsor Locks boy hit by a car when riding his bicycle home from a friend’s house, is one of those stories.

It would be easy to dismiss this story as simply a car vs bicyclist collision on a darkened roadway late one October night. And, not surprisingly, the driver’s lawyer has apparently made statements questioning the safety of a boy riding his bike home in the dark. Those questions seem reasonable.

However, serious and troubling allegations are being made about the driver’s behavior that night and suspicions that his police colleagues may not have investigated this accident strenuously as it involved one of their own.

Questions arose as news of the fatal accident started to become public – questions that would make any reasonable person revisit their initial impression of this fatal accident:

  • The driver who hit the boy happened to be an off-duty Windsor Locks policeman. The officer’s father was Windsor Locks PD’s highest-ranking officer at the accident scene that night.
  • A breathalyzer test was not administered, and apparently the driver would not consent to having his blood drawn once at the hospital.

Sadly, the boy died that night. And his family questioned whether there would be a fair investigation, considering the driver was an off-duty policeman in the town where the accident occurred.

From the Hartford Courant:

Hartford State’s Attorney Gail Hardy removed the regional team from the case two days later and turned the case over to the state police because of concerns about how the accident investigation was handled.

Perhaps she was just doing her job but I consider Ms. Hardy a hero… nothing will bring the boy back, but at a minimum, the boy’s family deserves to know the facts of the case. And if there was wrongdoing, the person responsible should be held accountable.

The driver has been arrested on several charges, including manslaughter. The investigation findings outlined in the arrest warrant make this case even more troubling:

  • Despite the posted 35mph speed limit in the residential area, state police investigators estimate the driver’s speed at 73mph at the time of the accident.
  • Apparently, the off-duty officer’s father refused to allow a regional accident investigator interview his son in the hospital that night.
  • Witnesses are confirming that the off-duty officer had apparently been drinking for several hours up to the accident. There is surveillance video showing him drinking at a tavern up to a half-hour before the accident.
  • The driver was witnessed by a nearby resident tossing something out of his car immediately after the accident – that object apparently was a bar glass. When the object was located by investigators, it still contained some beer.

There is more in the arrest warrant.

Aside from the obvious tragedy of a teen killed riding his bike home one night, Henry Dang seems to have been a good kid. In a region where the news is full of stories about kids who’ve gone astray, Henry Dang was apparently on the right path. And that just makes this accident all the more tragic.

Henry’s family wants (and deserves) answers about what happened that night. And thankfully, it appears they will get them. From the Hartford Courant:

Sources said state police are conducting a two-pronged investigation. The first part centers on the crash itself – with an emphasis on establishing a timeline of (the driver’s) actions in the hours before his car struck the teen.

The second aspect deals with how the initial investigation was handled.

My deepest sympathies to Henry Dang’s family.