STAMFORD — Five days after the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, the sound of howling winds was replaced by the sounds of buzz saws, wood chippers and hammers.
On Saturday, in leafy neighborhoods like Shippan, landscapers and tree-cutters could be seen on almost every block. There, many residents were grappling with the extent of the damage caused by the storm, which has been estimated by Mayor Michael Pavia to be in the tens of millions of dollars.
Yet amid those who suffered staggering property losses, there was also a sense that the toll could have been much worse.
Carla Gatto, a mother of two, stood on her front lawn staring incredulous at the scene before her. On Monday, five towering pine trees uprooted from her neighbor’s yard and toppled like dominos onto her yellow-brick Colonial house on Westminster Road.
No one was hurt. The roof stayed intact, with not a shingle scattered on the ground. The majestic pines, which stood about 15 feet away from her home, stretch about 75 feet in height.
“I look at that and I think, ’It’s a miracle,’” she said.
Her husband, Steve, pointed to a wrought-iron fence next to the trees, which had crumpled but not fallen entirely at their weight. “It helped save the house,” he said.
Not far away, on the corner of Iroquois Road and Ponus Avenue, there was an even closer call.
At 6:33 p.m., Sonia Polonia, 44, watched in horror as a massive oak tree tore a hole in her living room.
“I thought it was an explosion,” said Polonia, who along with her sister rents adjoining floors of a three-bedroom house.
That night, four people, including her 16-year-old son, had sat monitoring the hurricane from an L-shaped couch in her living room. All escaped harm, including her four-year-old niece who sat in the corner where an entire wall had been peeled off by the force of the roughly 100-foot tall tree.
A concerned neighbor across the street had heard the crash and rushed in, grabbing the child to safety, she said. She was covered in pieces of sheetrock.
“It’s one experience I will never forget in my life,” Polonia said.
Donning sweats and a New York Yankees cap, Polonia was among the displaced who returned to visit their homes on Saturday afternoon. The two families are staying temporarily with Polonia’s daughter as their landlord tries to find them another place to live.
Inside her apartment, the small living room had been mostly emptied. The beige sectional couch lay in overturned pieces atop a now muddied Oriental rug. But in the kitchen, where Polonia had stood putting water into the freezer minutes before the tree came down, their lives were on display: family photos and cards pinned against the refrigerator and an opened box of Pop Tarts on a small table.
The children, she said, seemed to be doing fine. Before leaving, her son Christian had vented his anger at the source of their upheaval.
“Sandy you suck,” he scrawled in a red marker on the wall, along with other choice words.
Below, he added, “I almost died because of you.”