Preparing for the worst
ISLIP TOWN—Last Thursday, Islip Town officials held a special press conference at the town’s Emergency Operations Center in light of reports that Hurricane Joaquin could soon be passing through the region. Although the storm eventually veered out of Long Island’s path, the key point made was that Islip is taking any potential weather event very seriously, particularly after Hurricane Sandy.
Here’s what they had to say:
“The message that we really want to deliver is that we’re prepared,” said Supervisor Angie Carpenter. “We are obviously a vulnerable part of the geography of Long Island, with the entire South Shore of the Town of Islip either on the bay or on the ocean. We have been very vigilant since the beginning of the week when it became obvious we were potentially in harm’s way.
“Our people are so tuned-in to this kind of thing, especially because of Superstorm Sandy,” continued Carpenter, who noted that the town could possibly call for a voluntary evacuation of Fire Island if conditions intensified. “We have professionals in place who know what they’re doing, so you really are in good hands. But every resident has their own individual responsibilities, and we’re counting on them to do their part, too.”
Carpenter urged residents to make sure that they had taken all necessary precautions for extreme weather, such as securing outdoor furniture and propane tanks while also stocking up on gasoline and supplies.
“Make sure that you and your family have your emergency contact information intact,” said Carpenter. “If you do have to evacuate, have your medications and whatever you need for a few days.
“I’d ask residents who are not already signed up for E-Alert to please do so,” added Carpenter. “We’ll be shooting out messages periodically, and if you do lose power, at least you’ll be able to get texts or emails through the phone.”
Deputy Commissioner of Public Safety Anthony D’Amico gave an update on how the department was monitoring the storm’s status and acting accordingly.
“It’s still on an unpredictable track,” said D’Amico. “We’re ramping up our planning efforts, our incident management team has been activated, and we’re going to continue to maintain our communication with the county and Fire Island officials through conference calls.”
Department of Public Works Commissioner Tom Owens noted that the town had 800 pieces of equipment, 300 employees, and full fleet of vehicles ready to go. At that point, crews were already pumping out storm drains in preparation.
“We learned a lot from Sandy, so we hope that we miss the storm,” said Owens. “But if it comes, we are certainly prepared.”
Rob Schneider, director of operations at Long Island MacArthur Airport, said that airport officials were also doing their part.
“We are already diligently prepared for this possible hurricane,” said Schneider. “We do have safety precautions that are already in place.”
Schneider said that the airport would remain open unless its airlines decided to cancel any flights, which generally happens when crosswinds reach 35 knots per hour and if winds are sustained at 60 knots coming straight down runways.
“As far as cancellations go, that’s something that will really be determined once we get closer to seeing what this storm has entailed for us,” said Schneider. “We will be monitoring this closely with the airlines to make sure that this information is disseminated out to the traveling public.”
The meeting turned out to be a dress rehearsal of sorts in preparation for any extreme weather that might be ahead, including winter storms.
The effect of the most recent extreme weather was minimal, even for Fire Island.
A notice posted on an Ocean Beach Village webpage notes that only minor coastal erosion with some flooding occurred. It was actually a result of the nor’easter that arrived ahead of Joaquin, who thankfully never showed up. Gale-force winds suspended ferry service to the barrier island on Sunday, but the ferries were up and running on schedule by Monday morning.
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