Is the weather getting weirder? Last year we had floods from Irene, followed by a freak snow storm that toppled leafy trees, and then—a winter with no snow. This year, Superstorm Sandy blasted us, followed by a severe Nor’easter. What’s next?
I suspect a lot of New Year’s resolutions will involve finally putting together a household or family disaster plan: three days of non-perishable food, and plans for heat, light, medical needs and communication. Checklists and planning tools are available on the County Office of Fire and Emergency Services website. Please remember that your ability to take care of yourself in the wake of a disaster frees Orangetown emergency responders to focus efforts where they are most urgently needed.
In Orangetown, Superstorm Sandy caused widespread devastation, destroying power lines, homes, cars, and other property while disrupting daily lives and economic activity. Most tragically, Sandy claimed the life of one of our fellow town residents, Jeffrey Chanin of Pearl River. I mourn this senseless loss and hope you will join me in keeping the Chanin family in your thoughts or prayers.
As we pick up the pieces in Orangetown, we should take great pride in the work of our emergency responders, both paid and volunteer. As Supervisor, I saw the teamwork first hand: our 24-hour command center set up in the court room in Town Hall, where reports of downed wires and accidents resulted in the dispatch of police, highway, ambulance and fire professionals as required; midnight repairs to the Nyack sewer pump station prevented an enormous sewage spill into the Hudson River; the constant refilling of diesel generators at 47 pump stations and other town facilities, followed by the desperate search for fuel deliveries as supplies ran low; the caring for stranded travelers and other guests at our Town Hall warming station while the skies glowed red from exploding electrical transformers. Perhaps most impressive was the way that, amid the devastation in Piermont, the fire department operated as such an inspiring hub of relief effort, serving hot meals, giving away warm, dry clothes, and pumping out flooded basements.
In Town Hall, we’re also taking a critical look at gaps in our system. We need more warming centers, with access to food and wireless service, and we need to better identify and support the most vulnerable among us—the elderly and people with electronic medical devices. And especially, we need to demand that Orange & Rockland communicate better with town officials, and coordinate better with our Highway Department, which cannot remove downed trees until wires have been cleared by O&R.
Your feedback on our local response to Sandy can help guide our efforts the next time “weird weather” strikes. Please download my report on the Town’s response to Sandy at www.orangetown.com, and send comments to email@example.com
In the meantime, please register your phone or email with www.NYALERT.gov, a free emergency notification system that can send you information about severe weather and other incidents based on your zip code.
Thanks and stay safe—Andy.
Andy Stewart is Orangetown Supervisor; reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 359-5100, ext. 2261.