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Cuomo: Get Ready For Storms

WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

The National Hurricane Center in Miami has generated a forecast track for Hurricane Joaquin that closely follows the path Superstorm Sandy took, raising a New York City strike higher on the list of possibilities. Even if it’s downgraded to a tropical storm, Joaquin may pack the punch of an Irene or Lee.   "Preparedness" is the buzzword.

The heavy rains that came this week will seem like sprinkles if Joaquin takes a more northern track.  Some meteorologists are urging citizens to just "keep an eye" on reports as the days progress, noting that even the most precisely drawn computer model could fall apart if the storm shifts or otherwise veers off its projected track.

Whatever happens, forecasters agree it will rain: The National Weather Service predicts as much as 10 inches for some areas. The Weather Channel tweeted "Significant #flooding expected for the East U.S., no matter if #Joaquin makes landfall or not."

Alex Barra with Hudson Valley Weather warns Joaquin could cause some tropically-enhanced heavy rain to occur across upstate over the weekend, similar to what happened in advance of Tropical Storm Lee four years ago.   "Where we have the cold front that went through yesterday, causing the heavy rain in Albany, street flooding, heavy rain across the Hudson Valley, up to six-inches in the Catskills. That frontal boundary is now stalled, just around New York City, just south. What happens sometimes is as these storms track up the coast, their tropical moisture tends to interact with these cold fronts and you can something called a predecessor event, where rain breaks out well ahead of the tropical storm or hurricane.  So the bigger concern is gonna be, depending on how far north Joaquin can make it, we may see some enhanced tropical downpours and heavy rain over the weekend, which would not bode well for an already saturated ground, and the fact that most of the creeks and streams have not had a chance to recede from the rainfall that we received yesterday."

Although Joaquin's path remains uncertain, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is taking the stormwatch very seriously.   "I have learned the hard way that it is better to prepare for the worst. And in the past we were not, we didn't take the worst-case scenario into full consideration, and we paid the price. So. Our way now is to err on the side of caution, and we're starting to get prepared. Because there are things that you can do before a storm that once the storm hits it's too late."

Cuomo says emergency operations centers are now staffing up and will be operational by evening.   "Since we don't know if the storm is downstate or upstate, you have to prepare statewide and they tend to be very different needs. Upstate New York DEC state’s environmental agency is going to be deploying teams with the state's National Guard today to clear sites that we know have been problematic in the past. Clear conduits, clear streams that have been problematic in the past. We're also saying to all local officials, county officials, towns, villages, we will waive the DEC permitting requirement starting today."

National Grid is also taking a watchtower position. Spokesman Patrick Stella says the utility is telling customers to "be on high alert" for any gas service interruptions that might be triggered by severe flooding.  "When we get this much rain in the ground, sometimes we can have trouble with gas pipes that are in the ground, so, first and foremost we ask customers if they smell natural gas or they do not have gas service, call us immediately. 1-800-892-2345."

Gas Safety Tips

  • If your house is flooded contact National Grid immediately to disconnect power and shut off gas.
  • Do not turn off the gas meter even in the event of an evacuation. The gas meter should be left on to maintain proper pressure in the gas piping within the house and to prevent water from entering the lines should flooding occur. Most gas appliances have safety valves that shut off the flow of gas automatically if the pilot light goes out.
  • If your appliances have been in contact with water, please contact a licensed plumbing or heating contractor to make sure the appliances are safe to operate.
  • If we have shut your gas service off for safety reasons, please contact a licensed plumbing or heating contractor before contacting National Grid. The licensed plumbing or heating contractor will make sure that your service is safe to restore.
  • Don’t forget to check outdoor appliances, such as pool heaters and gas grills.
  • Listen for important announcements on television and radio from emergency officials about possible evacuations or other emergency procedures.
  • Customers also can stay in touch with National Grid by following the company on Facebook, Twitter and on our website www.nationalgridus.com
  • Check on elderly family members, neighbors and others who may need assistance during an outage period.

Closer to the coast, Con Ed is more than halfway through a $2 billion, four-year plan to beef up its power infrastructure in the event of severe storms and flooding. Kinder Morgan has its oil and chemical facilities in New York and New Jersey on alert.  Long Island is on HIGH alert.

Governor Cuomo urges New Yorkers to plan ahead by reviewing their emergency plans and supplies, admitting "we can't prepare for everything.”    "I just don't wanna get arrogant or cocky. Because I've been knocked to the ground a couple of times by Mother Nature. But, there is no doubt that we're in a much much better position than we've ever been before."

Build an emergency supply kit.

  • Water, nonperishable food, first aid materials, prescriptions, flashlight and a battery-powered radio are a few of the items that are critical to include in an emergency supply toolkit.
  • A fully stocked toolkit and well-thought-out emergency plan could mean the difference between life and death. Emergency supply kits should include basic tools and survival items. For a complete list of recommended Emergency Supply Toolkit items, visit www.ready.gov.
Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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