Hurricane Sandy: 3 Years Later

Hurricane Sandy caused unprecedented damage to the county when it struck Westchester on October 29, 2012, with hundreds of homes impacted, many businesses damaged, and three deaths. In the wake of the disaster, Westchester’s government officials and utility heads have come away with a number of lessons learned, enhanced preparations, and a few tips on how you can protect yourself when the next big storm hits.

“Shortly after the storm, County Executive Rob Astorino announced the opening of a Disaster Recovery Center in Westchester, which assisted nearly 1,000 people to obtain services to aid in their recovery,” says Dennis Delborgo, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management.

He adds that Astorino “challenged us as emergency managers to see Sandy as another learning experience and ensure that we were even better prepared for the next big event. We have spent the last three years building and strengthening our relationships with our emergency response partners throughout Westchester and the region.”

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Con Edison similarly invested significantly in preparing for the next major meteorological event. The energy company is in the third year of a program it calls Fortifying The Future. By the time the program is finished next year, Con Edison claims it will have spent more than $1 billion shoring up its power lines and other equipment. Those investments have so far prevented more than 65,000 customer outages, the company says.

“Overall, we expect our systems to be better prepared to withstand, and recover from storms like Sandy in the future,” says Jane Solnick, Con Edison’s director of public affairs for Westchester.

Westchester has in turn strengthened its relationship with energy providers in anticipation of any future issues. Deputy Commissioner of Westchester’s Department of Emergency Services Jennifer Wacha says that, since Sandy, “the county has developed coordination and information sharing with all utility providers… and enhanced partnerships and collaboration with community organizations in support of the whole community’s long-term recovery.”

There are also a number of steps that the people of Westchester can take to prepare for cataclysmic storms. Officials agree that both education and proper supplies are vital.

“It is important to stay informed during a disaster by monitoring official sources of information,” says Delborgo. “Ensure that you have access to a battery- or crank-operated radio, consider a backup power source for your tablet or smartphone, and maintain a supply of food, water, medicine, and other necessities.”

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Delborgo also recommends avoiding all downed power lines and wires, as they may still be energized, and to maintain a fire-safe home with working smoke detectors, extinguishers, and carbon monoxide detectors. Con Edison customers are encouraged to report downed power lines and outages, find information and safety tips, and check service restoration status at www.conEd.com.

County officials stress that residents must remain vigilant in the face of unpredictable weather patterns.

“Being prepared for the next major meteorological event requires continual commitment and effort at all levels of our community,” Wacha says, “including government leaders, emergency responders, private and non-profit organizations, and community members.”

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