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Hurricane Update, Thursday: 5:30 p.m.: Governor Declares State of Emergency

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in New York in preparation for the potential impact of Hurricane Irene,, which is expected to make landfall on Long Island on Sunday morning.

A state of emergency enables New York to use state resources to assist local governments more effectively and quickly, allows the state to activate the national “Emergency Management Assistance Compact” to bring in resources from out of the state, and enables New York to access key federal resources earlier in anticipation of an emergency.  The Governor is continuing to coordinate the statewide preparation for the storm and has ordered the state’s Emergency Operations Center in Albany to operate twenty-four hours a day. At the Governor’s direction, state agencies and local governments are planning cooperative response efforts. Governor Cuomo and his administration have been in contact with local officials, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and county executives, to coordinate preparation. The state government is communicating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service to discuss the potential tracks of the storm.

“In this emergency I am activating all levels of state government to prepare for any situation that may be caused by Hurricane Irene,” Governor Cuomo said. “We are communicating with our federal and local partners to track the storm and to plan a coordinated response, and we will deploy resources as needed to the areas expected to be hit the hardest. I urge New Yorkers to personally prepare for hurricane conditions and to cooperate with emergency officials if needed. By working together, we will all be able to face this storm in a calm and organized manner.”

Governor Cuomo is overseeing state mobilization in preparation for the potential storm, including:

0.The state’s senior emergency management staff will be assigned to the storm’s anticipated centers downstate and on Long Island to strengthen coordination.

The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is coordinating with the National Weather Service to track the storm. OEM’s Emergency Operations Center is activated and OEM has deployed command vehicles to Nassau and Suffolk counties. OEM will make additional deployments of personnel and resources as needed. OEM is also coordinating with emergency teams across the state to activate local emergency plans.

The Division of State Police is preparing to stage resources, including aviation, marine, dive, and communications units.

The Division of Military and Naval Affairs is developing a plan to put hundreds of troops on State Active Duty to deal with storm-related response. These troops would be available to work with state and city agencies as required.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is preparing for potential outages, coordinating with power plants and transmission line operators, and setting up extra staff for the weekend. The Governor’s office and the PSC also spoke directly with CEOs of the six major electric utilities – Con Edison, National Grid, Orange & Rockland, Central Hudson, NYSEG, and RG&E – to discuss collaboration on potential power restoration efforts. The PSC’s consumer services office will have extra weekend staff to deal with outage complaints and to provide the public with information.

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) and Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) are both confirming extra staffing and conducting internal operations to prepare for potential impacts. LIPA is closely coordinating with National Grid to ensure it is fully prepared on Long Island.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has cancelled all weekend track work and is directing personnel to be on standby for emergency repairs. The MTA will have Subway Emergency Dispatch Vehicles, subway track maintenance personnel, and extra bus tow trucks standing by. The MTA’s subway division and bridges and tunnels division will have emergency generators on standby for potential power failures. The MTA is also inspecting critical subway, track, and tunnel pumps to ensure they are working properly.

The Department of Transportation has begun preventive maintenance and debris removal and is distributing flood control equipment. Equipment in active work zones is being secured, additional erosion protection is being addressed as necessary, barges are secured, and plans for post-storm clean-up are being developed.

The Thruway Authority is checking all vehicles and readying equipment. The Authority is outfitting trucks to clear debris and will begin patrols on Saturday. The Authority will have extra staff available to deal with potential impacts of the storm. The Tappan Zee Bridge will be closed to truck, trailer, and mobile home traffic if winds reach 45 mph and this traffic will be diverted to other outlets.

The Bridge Authority is conducting constant monitoring of wind conditions at its six bridges. Wind advisories for motorists will be issued as necessary. Particularly vulnerable are empty box trucks and trailers, which should avoid all bridges during a high wind storm. The Authority has extra staff to monitor wind conditions and to respond to emergency situations. Trucks and large, light vehicles will be discouraged from crossing bridges if wind speeds increase.

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is identifying erosion hot spots and potential damage impact areas, monitoring reservoir levels, planning deployment of staff on Monday to assess storm damage, and enhancing their permitting capabilities to speed any necessary storm damage repairs. DEC is in contact with local governments regarding management of storm debris and will monitor wastewater and sewage treatment plant operations. DEC is canceling reservations at all DEC campgrounds in the Catskill Preserve (North-South Lake, Bear Spring Mountain, Beaverkill, Devil’s Tombstone, Kenneth L. Wilson, Little Pond, Mongaup Pond, and Woodland Valley). DEC will close and evacuate these Campgrounds as well as Catskill Preserve Day Use facilities by noon on Saturday.

The Department of Corrections has facilities that fall within the hurricane’s projected path in New York City. There are no correctional facilities located in Nassau or Suffolk counties. All of the correctional facilities are equipped with proper generators, water storage tanks, and sufficient supplies of food to last for ten days.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has canceled all Friday, Saturday, and Sunday camping reservations at all state parks in the Long Island, Palisades and Taconic regions. A complete evacuation of anyone remaining in the campgrounds will occur at noon on Saturday. Parks will be closed if wind speeds reach 45 mph, or as weather conditions require.

In Suffolk County, Cuomo is working with the Office of Emergency Management, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Department of Transportation, the Long Island Rail Road, the county division of State Police, the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, if activated, the Office of Fire Prevention & Control; Department of Health, the Department of Environmental Conservation and American Red Cross

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has deployed the Incident Management Assistance Team (IMAT) A to Albany to be staged in the FEMA Joint Field Office and IMAT B to New Jersey to assist with planning and preparedness efforts.  The actual strength of the hurricane will depend on its course up the east coast of the United States. Parts of the state that are adjacent to coastal waters, such as Long Island and New York City, are considered most at risk. Inland locations can also be affected by heavy rainfall and strong winds, which can cause flooding and power outages.  Governor Cuomo urges New Yorkers to take stock of their emergency supplies, such as water, non-perishable food, radios, batteries, supplies for any pets, and first aid kits. The Governor also encourages New Yorkers to check in with neighbors, especially the elderly or disabled, who might need assistance to ensure that their needs are met if emergency instructions are issued.

Update, Thursday 2 p.m. – Village Prepares for Hurricane Irene as Path Moves West

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According to the most recent data from the National Hurricane Center, Hurricane Irene is now forecasted to make landfall on Long Island sometime Sunday afternoon, the storm’s center hitting somewhere in western Suffolk County or eastern Nassau County.

The affects of the storm are expected to impact East End residents starting on Saturday night. High winds, flooding and coastal erosion are anticipated as Hurricane Irene nears Long Island.

Sag Harbor Village officials spent this morning prepping for the storm, according to Mayor Brian Gilbride. Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano is leading emergency efforts for the village, he said.

At 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Chief Fabiano convened a meeting with Mayor Gilbride, North Haven Mayor Laura Nolan, North Haven Deputy Mayor Jim Smyth, as well as members of the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department, Sag Harbor Village Police Force and Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley to give the team an update on the storm’s path and emergency management plans for the village.

According to Mayor Gilbride, Chief Fabiano has already taken the village’s generator to Pierson High School – the local evacuation center – and has confirmed it is working order in the event the evacuation center is needed.

“We are already talking about how to make sure people are safely evacuated,” said Mayor Gilbride.

He encouraged people to prepare for Hurricane Irene by stocking food and water in their homes, as well as flashlights and batteries in the event of a power outage. Mayor Gilbride added that for residents who need shelter for their animals, the Animal Rescue Center of the Hamptons has announced it has a about 50 slots for cats and dogs who cannot be evacuated to Pierson High School or neighboring evacuation centers.

He added that residents in the village who live in low lying areas should be aware that the storm is predicted to cause massive flooding. While Yardley’s crew has spent the last two days clearing drains in the village to keep flooding at a minimum, Mayor Gilbride said those who do live in low lying areas should prepare their homes for evacuation and if emergency management officials call for an evacuation of any neighborhood, residents should immediately comply.

“Make sure you have any extra medicine if you need it, on hand, top off your vehicles with fuel and if you have an elderly neighbor, please check in on them,” said Mayor Gilbride. “We have all been through this before and if we take care of each other and work together we will get through this fine.”

“We’ve been preparing for [hurricane season] for months,” said Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst.

In fact, Southampton Town actually unveiled its official “2011 Hurricane Survival Guide” earlier this month, which provides detailed notes on how to prepare for and what to do in the event of a hurricane; it also provides a list of emergency contacts and evacuation sites in the town.  (A link to the guide can be found on the town’s website: www.southamptontownny.gov.)

Though hurricane activity—especially 96 hours out from its expected arrival—is relatively unpredictable, Throne-Holst explained, she said will meet with all Southampton Town department heads at 8:30 Friday morning, August 26 to regroup before the weekend.  “By then we should have a pretty good sense of what we’re dealing with.”

The town is currently in the process of putting together templates for emergency orders.

East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson did not return calls for comment, but Deputy Highway Superintendent Kevin Ahearn said the department is avidly checking the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website for hurricane updates.  In the meantime, he said, “We’re just making sure our equipment is in shape.”

In addition to maintaining a strong supply of fuel oil, gas and chainsaw oil, Ahearn said all highway department personnel will be on-call this weekend.

Throne-Holst added, “I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that it’s no worse than what we’re expecting.”

Should either Southampton or East Hampton Town call a state of emergency and urge residents to evacuate their homes, Sag Harbor residents should go to Pierson High School, which is the local evacuation center. Other important numbers to keep on hand are: The American Red Cross of Suffolk County, 631-924-6700, the Suffolk County Office of Emergency Management, 631-852-4900, the Long Island Power Authority, 1-800-490-0075 (to report down electric lines or an electrical emergency and National Grid, 1-800-490-0045 (to report the need for emergency gas service).

Dock Yard Prepares for Irene

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“We’re clearing all our docks,” said Louis Grignon, manager of the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard.

After tracking Hurricane Irene—which threatens to hit the East End sometime on Sunday—Grignon said he decided yesterday (Tuesday) to institute an official “hurricane haul.”  In addition to the fact that the eye of the storm looks set to cross right over Long Island (even touching Sag Harbor, according to Tuesday’s reports), Grignon further explained that because of the new moon the East End will be seeing “astronomically high tides” this weekend.

Grignon said the Sag Harbor Yacht Yard has the capacity to haul about 20 to 25 boats toshore per day, and it had brought in 14 boats by 1 p.m. Thursday.  “That’s in addition to roughly 30 boats that have already been grounded,” he added.  In all, “we’ll get a good two-thirds of our customers taken care of,” Grignon later estimated.

Most of Grignon’s customers have already signed storm-haul contracts, which give the Yacht Yard the right to bring all docked ships to shore.  Grignon’s team is also hauling some vessels in from beyond the breakwater, and securing those fastened to mornings inside the grid.

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Above: North Haven Village Trustee George Butts helps his son, George, pull his small speed boat to shore.

Grignon said his philosophy going into a weekend rife with hurricane threats is, “You do the best you can before hand to prepare—and you pick up the pieces afterward.”

He hopes to have all boats on shore by Saturday.