THE SAGA OF HURRICANE SANDY
I never thought that only 14 months after Hurricane Irene in August 2011, the Mid-Atlantic states would experience a storm of an even greater magnitude. As we all now know, Hurricane Sandy was the most severe storm the east coast has seen in 75 years and caused substantial damage and loss of life. Since it was predicted that a major flood and wind event would occur, the Village emergency management team convened days before the anticipated storm to discuss the necessary preparations and proposed responses to the expected flooding and wind. Daily conference calls with the Westchester County Emergency Operations Center started days before the storm, as well as daily conference calls with Con Ed, to keep all municipalities apprised of weather conditions and to ascertain the particular needs of each municipality. During these calls discussion took place regarding the need for temporary and permanent shelters as well as the efforts to mobilize additional Con Ed crews to deal with the after effects of the hurricane. These daily calls have continued through November 11, the date I am writing this column, and I am pleased to report that as of today power has been restored to all Rye Brook homes.
Luckily, we were spared the heavy rains that were predicted, but the wind did havoc to our community. Approximately 17 homes sustained major damage, 30 roads were blocked, including King Street and North Ridge Street, and toppled trees, poles and downed wires were pervasive. Although we had almost 3,000 homes without power or almost 80% of Rye Brook, by Thursday, November 1st the only blocked road was Pine Ridge Road from Lincoln Ave. to Mohegan Lane. That street looked like a war zone and took a crew over two days to clear. We fared better than our neighbors in Rye, Mamaroneck and Scarsdale, each of which had numerous roads that looked like Pine Ridge Road.
One of the most difficult challenges was communicating with our residents since home phone service was disrupted. The Village has Nixle, an emergency notification system that resident can register for on-line by going to the Village’s website at www.ryebrook.org
. You can input your cell phone number and e-mail address to receive notifications that way. I strongly urge residents who have not previously signed up for Nixle to do so now. Through Nixle I sent out daily messages regarding the status of power restoration, the location of temporary shelters and dry ice distribution centers, the hours of operation of the AJP Community Center on Garibaldi Place that served as a warming and information center, and the location of showering facilities available to Rye Brook residents. Special thanks go Mike and Tiffany Callaway of the Club@800 Westchester Ave. for opening up their facility to all Rye Brook residents and permitting the use of their showers, and Mayor Dennis Pilla and the Port Chester Board of Trustees for providing dry ice in the spirit of intermunicipal cooperation and support.
Rye Brook acted efficiently and responsibly to deal with the emergency situation. Additional police, fire and highway/park staffs were called in to deal with the serious crisis. Although the highway/parks, police and fire personnel worked non-stop to deal with the conditions due to the safety issues involved, the necessary leadership was needed to mobilize the effort. Village Administrator Chris Bradbury, Police Chief Greg Austin, Assistant to the Administrator David Burke, Village Engineer and Superintendent of Public Works Michal Nowak, Highway Foreman Paul Vinci, and Building Inspector Mickey Izzo worked tirelessly these past two weeks dealing with hurricane issues and coordinated all of the pre and post storm efforts. Special recognition also goes to Liz Rotfeld, Senior Services Coordinator, who oversaw the activities at the AJP Community Center. A resounding thank you goes to these individuals as well as all other Village personnel, highway/parks, police, fire and village hall staff, who worked so hard to ensure that our Village would be safe. All of these individuals are the unsung heroes.
There are additional individuals that need to be singled out, especially our Con Edison liaisons Kris and Irvin. These Con Edison employees arrived in Rye Brook at 5:00 AM the morning after the hurricane. They became advocates for Rye Brook and worked relentlessly to make sure that Rye Brook residents had power restored. Although Kris and Irvin could not always get crews to Rye Brook and at times they did not get accurate information from Con Ed central command, they were always in the trenches with us and worked long hours on behalf of our community. I also want to extend my gratitude to all of the following out of state (and out of country) crews that worked in Rye Brook: Mississippi, Louisiana, Florida, California, North Carolina, Texas and Quebec.
The Board of Trustees has authorized the hiring of additional personnel and additional equipment to help with storm debris cleanup. Leaf removal will continue at the same time as storm debris but it is important not to mix leaves with storm debris. Branches and limbs of a manageable size (i.e. handled by hand by one person) should be neatly placed at the curb. Branches and limbs should be no greater than 4-5 feet in length in piles with a maximum height of 4 feet. The extent of the storm debris is enormous and I ask all residents to be patient as we proceed with the cleanup.
Please go to the Village’s website at www.ryebrook.org
for information related to FEMA and how to apply for FEMA assistance. A FEMA Disaster Recovery Center is open at the Westchester County Center in White Plains and will be staffed 7 days a week from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The FEMA Disaster Recovery Center will be staffed with FEMA representatives to help individuals and households apply for financial aid for losses and damages caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Many Rye Brookers volunteered to help out during these difficult times. Rick Buzin and others suggested that we form a Caring Committee to help out in times of need and I think this is a fabulous idea. If you are interested in serving, please let me know.
I thank our residents for their patience and understanding during this exceptionally trying time.
Joan L. Feinstein
Mayor, Village of Rye Brook