HAWTHORNE, N.Y. - Shortly before “hour zero” of Hurricane Irene, County Executive Robert Astorino reminded residents to abide by safety precautions from Westchester’s emergency operations center in Hawthorne.
“This is a serious storm. There’s no question about it. Whether it’s a hurricane category one or a tropical storm, you still have high winds. You still have flooding. You still have heavy rain and you still have very dangerous situations with power lines that could be down," Astorino said Saturday. "So don’t take this lightly.”
Astorino, county commissioners and department heads sealed themselves off in the Hudson Valley Transportation Management Center for the weekend, where they will be coordinating Westchester’s hurricane response. Although Hurricane Irene and other severe weather is expected to pass by Sunday afternoon, the emergency operations center will likely be staffed and organizing recovery through at least Monday night.
A representative from Indian Point will be in Hawthorne and prepared to shut down the nuclear power plant if winds reach a sustained speed of 100 miles per hour. The emergency operations center will also be working closely with Con Edison, which Astorino said has gathered about 800 additional employees from as far away as New Mexico to assist with storm emergencies and clean up.
“Anyone and everyone that’s needed will be available. We will have extra corrections officers in the jail, if needed. We will have extra public safety and police. Obviously emergency services is here,” said Astorino. “We have people in the field and environmental facilities to check our sewers and pumping stations.”
Westchester representatives decided it did not need to declare a state of emergency to put necessary hurricane safety procedures in place, however, Astorino said the county would do so if it “reached that threshold.”
“Most of the decisions, again at this point, are local government decisions. And we are here to support them in any way that we can with our department of social services, our public safety department, our transportation. We can go through the whole list. Everyone is in house,” Astorino said.
Many of the 21 municipalities that have declared a state of emergency are located near the Sound shore, where high winds threaten to stoke high tides tomorrow morning and cause serious flood damage.
The emergency operation center will be monitoring water supplies every hour to ensure that volatile currents and winds don’t mix too much dirt with the water. Water will be tested every hour and boil-water alerts will be issued if needed.
If the need arises, the county will open additional shelters, which are open to pets.
Westchester has coordinated hurricane procedures closely with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City. Local hospitals and nursing homes will help care for New York City residents who have been evacuated.
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