I’m finishing my preparations for a quick trip to California to help evaluate an earthquake exercise. All the while, I’m watching Hurricane Sandy come up the coast after creating some havoc in the Caribbean. According to the latest National Hurricane Center advisory, Sandy will make landfall in southern New Jersey, and progress inland to central Pennsylvania before turning north and heading through New York State, the track taking it through the Finger Lakes area. From there, the current advisory predicts that the storm will turn to the northeast, saturating New England. It’s going to be a very wet, rainy week as Sandy slows soon after making landfall. Of particular concern here in New York is the western portion of the state which has received a fair amount of rainfall over the last couple of days from the cold front that has progressed here from the mid west.
Thus far, there seems to be an appropriate amount of concern over this storm. While I’ve heard some folks say that people are overly concerned, I don’t think officials are crying wolf with this. First, as I’m sure you’ve read in the media, many factors of this storm are unprecedented or rarely seen, particularly the collision with the cold front – resulting in many of the hurricane advisories including snow in their forecast – SNOW for a HURRICANE! Who would have ever thought that would happen? Second, the storm is maintaining hurricane strength right up to landfall, bringing significant winds and storm surge with it. New York City is taking actions which to my recollection are fully in compliance with their hurricane plans, such as low elevation evacuations, closing of mass transit and tunnels ahead of the storm, and other protective actions. States of emergency have been declared all along the northeast states, with the President declaring an emergency in Maryland, which will be the first to feel the full effects of the category 1 storm with sustained winds of 75 miles per hour. I expect the President will make similar declarations ahead of the storm reaching subsequent states. States along the projected impact path all have activated their emergency operations centers (EOCs), pulling together local, state, and federal agencies, as well as some not for profits such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, to coordinate efforts and situational information.
I’ve received storm preparedness information from several sources already, including Ready.gov, the Small Business Administration, Time Warner Cable, and National Grid. I’m certain utility companies in other area are doing the same outreach to their customers. Locally, the Erie Canal is being closed and water levels dropped to help mitigate against flooding, which has devastated communities along the waterway in the past. Local governments are putting out preparedness public service announcements to citizens to help ensure they are prepared. You’ve heard me comment before about the complacency of much of our population when it comes to emergency preparedness. Please pay heed to what is being suggested and spread the word that preparedness for this storm is serious. Be sure to have a few days of water, food, medications, and batteries for flashlights. Keep your cell phone charged and pay attention to weather information and emergency alerts. If you are a New Yorker, now is a great time to subscribe to NY-ALERT to be certain to receive emergency information. If you are outside of New York, many states now have similar alerting systems. Even clearing away leaves and debris, which is plentiful this time of year, from storm sewers and culverts will be a big help. If you manage or own a business, be sure to pull out your emergency and continuity plans (you have these, right?) and be sure to keep your employees and other stakeholders informed of what’s going on.
I’m sure that when I return I’ll be helping with some disaster response and recovery activities in the area. The better you prepare and the smarter you are, the less responders have to risk their lives and valuable resources, so be smart, be prepared, and stay safe!