By Sarah Magee, Portsmouth, N.H., Joint Field Office
Amazement and delight abound in Westerly, R.I., as the town has met its ambitious goal of having Misquamicut Beach,devastated by Hurricane Sandy, back by Memorial Day and the start of tourist season. And, help from FEMA was critical to this important milestone.
Sitting on the south shore of Rhode Island, Westerly is a quiet community of about 23,000 in the winter, swelling in the summer to accommodate tourists who come to enjoy the beaches, Narragansett Bay and the Rhode Island Sound. With tourism such an important part of the local economy, the push was on to get the beach ready. “The beach is back!” said Amy Grzybowski, Westerly town director. “Hurricane Sandy displaced sand from the beach into the street. It was four or five feet deep. People have worked very, very hard to get it all sifted and returned to the beach.”
Dianne Andrews, FEMA assistant external affairs officer for intergovernmental affairs, attended a June 3 event hosted by the Town Council to recognize the many organizations and volunteers who had contributed to the restoration effort. Grzybowski had nominated Andrews and Public Assistance Branch Director Tim Barnett for recognition.
“Federal, state, local, businesses, companies, organizations and individuals came together to help the people, and the Town of Westerly wants you to know how much we appreciate your generosity and support,” said Diana L. Serra, council president.
FEMA Public Assistance reimbursed the town for 75 percent of its costs to remove debris, restore the beach and rebuild a public pavillion. In all, FEMA has obligated $734,286 to Westerly.
“We did everything we could do to help them,” Andrews said. “I know how much they appreciated that.”
Just over the border from Connecticut, Westerly is conveniently located to the Aquarium at Mystic, as well as the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casinos. Nearby, the picturesque village of Watch Hill features ocean views, ice cream shops, and craft boutiques.
“We want to say a hearty thank you very much,” Serra said. “And we want to remind you that there may be a time in the future when we may call on you again.”