Cuomo: State preparing for Hurricane Joaquin worst case scenario
Brooklyn's Montague Street Tunnel rebuilt and hardened
It’s still too early to predict where or even if Hurricane Joaquin will hit New York, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that the state and agencies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the MTA are making preparations just in case.
“It might veer off and be nothing, or it might have a significant impact on the state,” Cuomo said during a press conference call Thursday morning. “I’ve learned the hard way that it is better to prepare for the worst. In the past we didn’t take the worst-case scenario into full consideration, and we paid the price.”
State agencies are following emergency preparation guidelines, and the National Guard is in the pre-deployment stage, he said. “The MTA is taking all precautions, pre-positioning equipment, clearing construction sites of possible hazards and pre-positioning generators and pumping equipment,” Cuomo said.
The National Hurricane Center’s computer models show some possibility of Hurricane Joaquin, which was battering the Bahamas on Thursday, hitting the East Coast of the U.S.
One scenario being considered on Thursday was for the storm to strengthen before brushing past Long Island or further north to Cape Cod on Monday or Tuesday. At this point, however, the numerous computer models have not converged. A European model takes the storm to the northeast and out to sea without hitting the United States, and experts say Joaquin’s path is particularly tricky to forecast.
Even if the storm does not hit New York, it will still be felt.
“There is going to be catastrophic flooding from North Carolina to Massachusetts, and this is going to disrupt the economy regardless of whether or not Hurricane Joaquin makes landfall,” Mike Smith, senior vice president at AccuWeather Enterprise Solutions, said in a release.
Montague Street Tunnel Ready
MTA Executive Director Thomas Prendergast told reporters on Thursday that facilities that had been heavily damaged in Superstorm Sandy have been restored, and some are in even better shape than before.
“The Montague Street Tunnel is totally rebuilt,” Prendergast said. “Scores of millions of dollars” were spent to rebuild the bench wall and tracks, clean out out the drainage and harden the signal relay room next to the track.
“We’ve literally put in submarine doors and the ability to keep it watertight,” he said. “And we’ve put in submarine cable. In the event that the tunnel were to flood, there is a greater likelihood of not doing any damage to that cable.”
The MTA has carried out other infrastructure improvements as well, he said, such as putting in a sea wall along the Rockaway branch going out across the flats of Jamaica Bay, and adding flood protection equipment to protect the Coney Island Yard.
“We had three pump trains in place at the time Sandy occurred; we now have five so if that underwater tube floods we can quickly pump that out.”
The MTA is ready to shut down the subway system if it has to, Prendergast said.
“In a full hurricane, there are requirements to protect the equipment, lay it up in locations where it will not be susceptible to wind damage or flooding, ensure the system goes through an orderly shutdown.” If sustained wind speeds reach 39 mph, the MTA wants to make sure “we don’t have equipment out there.”
Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority, said the agency has spent $2 billion on recovery, mitigation and resiliency. Electric substations have been raised at LaGuardia Airport, and a large generator was installed at the pump house to insure that if there is water on the airfield, it can be pumped off quickly. Similar investments have been made at JFK, the Holland Tunnel, Lincoln Tunnel, the ports on both sides of the Hudson and the World Trade Center.
“We’ve got four miles of barrier in place and about 170 electric generators that can provide emergency power. We’re ready,” Foye said.
Cuomo said the state has changed its strategy since Sandy, to shift regional stockpiles of resources and people across the state. “Now we have equipment everywhere in the state to deal with a situation should it arise. We learned the hard way.” He added, “But you cannot be ready for everything.”
On Wednesday, John Melville, Commissioner of the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services recommended that residents have emergency supplies on hand such as flashlights and batteries, and water and canned goods.
Congressman Dan Donovan (Staten Island, Bay Ridge, Sheepshead Bay) said in a release that he has requested regular updates on Joaquin’s trajectory from city Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joe Esposito and FEMA officials.
“We’ve been through this before, and the most important actions people can take are to prepare well in advance and to listen to FEMA and the New York City Office of Emergency Management,” Donovan said. He urged residents to “put together a family communication plan, monitor the forecasts closely, and create an emergency supply kit.”
Ready.gov provides a list of basic preparedness steps and recommendations for supply kit contents.
Gov. Cuomo also reminded New Yorkers to sign up for NY-Alert at https://users.nyalert.gov to receive immediate alerts on flood warnings and severe storms.
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