Rockland County Emergency Services Coordinator Gordon Wren said the storm Hurricane Sandy, that is expected to bear down on the area this weekend could do significant damage.
“This storm has got some bad timing - full moon, leaves on the trees,” he said on Thursday. “Everything is saturated right now.”
Following a conference call with the National Weather Service and town representatives, Wren the county is likely to experience sustained winds of possible gale force, heavy rain and significant tidal forces. Many trees still have full canopies of leaves, likely to wind up on the ground causing potential flooding if they block culverts and storm drains.
“All of our key staff are being told to be available,” Wren said. “We have a lot of backup generators, chainsaws, pumps.”
Emergency management is tuning up that equipment and will stage it around the county.
Wren said the best advice he could give residents and businesses was to think about what they would need now. If people have generators, he said, they should be checked and run for a while before they are actually needed. Wren recommended cleaning out gutters, securing patio furniture and clearing yard waste from catch basins and culverts.
“Get ready, be prepared to lose power for an extended period of time,” he said.
Just as county and town officials have begun preparing for severe weather, so have the area’s utilities – United Water and Orange & Rockland, a point emphasized by State Senator David Carlucci.
"At the same time residents are preparing to make their own arrangements in the event that the storm hits the Hudson Valley, our utility companies must be doing the same,” said Carlucci.
While United Water will do its best to keep the water flowing, Spokesperson Deb Rizzi said, “We encourage our customers to store extra tap water in food-grade storage containers.”
She referred to recommendations from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for preparing a sufficient emergency water supply
- Store at least one gallon of water per day for each person and each pet. Store at least a three-day supply.
- Observe the expiration date for store-bought water; replace other stored water every six months.
- Be sure to clean and sanitize food-grade water storage containers before filling with safe water.
- Label the container as "drinking water" and include the storage date.
- Keep stored water in a cool place and avoid direct sunlight.
- Do not store water near toxic substances such as gasoline or pesticides.
United Water reported the Lake DeForest Reservoir at 99 percent of capacity. Noting the high water level, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski said his office has requested that United Water explore all options including increasing releases from Lake Deforest to lower the water level in order to protect West Nyack residents.
“The time to act is now to protect residents from this possible storm,” said Zebrowski. “In the next four days, all options must be explored to prevent and minimize damage to the people of West Nyack.”
Zebrowski has been working with the DEC towards a long-term solution to the reoccurring flooding problems in West Nyack. In a recent letter to the DEC, he requested the agency explore changing United Water’s permit to include flood mitigation as part of its responsibility.
Orange & Rockland also started its storm response preparations on Thursday.
“We are locking in workforce deployment and scheduling plans, filling our warehouses and staging areas with wire, poles and transformers and contracting for extra help from utilities and contractors from outside of the storm impact zone,” said Spokesman Mike Donovan. “We’ll also be buttoning up the electric system by shutting down any ongoing construction work and securing those work sites against heavy wind and water damage.”
Wren said emergency planning officials from throughout the county would conference or meet at once on Friday to get latest weather information and coordinate their preparation for the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Sandy.