New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency Friday, three days before Hurricane Sandy is forecast to hit the Northeast, prompting a chain of public preparedness measures on Long Island and beyond.
Federal, state and local government emergency management officials are coordinating response effort preparations in the event that the Category 1 hurricane with 75 mph winds churning up the Atlantic merges with another system into “frankenstorm” before it hits.
“With unpredictable weather conditions, we are taking the greatest precautions – especially after our experience from last year’s storms,” Cuomo said, referring to tropical storms Lee and Irene.
Down trees and power lines left about half of the Long Island Power Authority’s 1 million customers without power—some for more than a week—when Irene hit last August. Upstate was pummeled by flooding in both storms.
Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said residents in storm surge zones—generally areas south of Sunrise Highway and north of Route 25A—should have their “go kits” ready should he order evacuations. Nassau and Suffolk both ordered evacuations for Irene.
“We are preparing for the worst,” Mangano said. “We will hope for the best.”
He said voluntary evacuation orders have been issued for nursing homes in low-lying areas. Should the evacuation order become mandatory, Mangano urged residents find a place to stay inland and not risk riding out the storm.
“Let’s keep our first responders out of harms way,” he said when asked to address the countless residents who inevitably dismiss the warnings as media hype and need to be rescued.
Long Island Rail Road crews are clearing drains in flood zones, readying heavy machinery and securing loose construction equipment. The LIRR and New York City Subway system were suspended during Irene. Buses and planes are also bracing for service disruptions.
Cuomo said about 2,700 utility workers are on alert statewide to assist in the preparation and additional crews will be deployed for post-storm recovery.
Islip, Southampton, North Hempstead and Riverhead town leaders have issued warnings for residents to prepare.
LIPA customers can report outages by calling 1-800-490-0075 or texting REG and then OUT to 695472.
The Suffolk County police non-emergency number is 631-852-COPS. Nassau has not yet activated their non-emergency number.