Hurricane-weary Hudson Valley preps for nor'easter
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Some nervous Hudson Valley residents heeded Gov. Andrew Cuomo's calls to prepare for the worst and hope for the best when it comes to the nor'easter headed to the region Wednesday.
"I'm going out right now to buy some food that I can eat cold," Joy Roman, 85, of White Plains said on Tuesday.
The National Weather Service issued a coastal flood watch for southern Westchester through 7 a.m. Thursday and a high wind watch for the broader region.
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"We're on a storm watch for tomorrow and Thursday," Cuomo said at a midday news briefing.
While forecasters said the nor'easter could be weaker than first thought, state officials cautioned that it will still likely have the power to down some trees and power lines in the region.
With that in mind, Cuomo is asking contract utility-repair crews to remain in the state until after the nor'easter hits, so they can be redeployed where new problems occur.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino said he had spoken to top executives at Con Edison and New York State Electric and Gas Corp. on Monday about how they were preparing for the new storm, even as tens of thousands of people remained without power from damage done by Hurricane Sandy.
"Both assured me that as many crews as they can keep here, they will," Astorino said.
The county executive said he didn't plan on closing parkways in anticipation of the storm. He said workers were still trying to turn on some traffic lights that remain out on the Saw Mill River and Bronx River Parkways.
Even without further damage to the Hudson Valley, officials fear another storm will hinder the region's recovery from the hurricane.
To that end, utility companies, reinforced by hundreds of outside contractors and National Guard troops, on Tuesday pushed to beat the coming storm and try to bring back online many of the remaining 73,000 Hudson Valley customers still in the dark.
Despite those efforts, Cuomo continued a barrage of criticism aimed at the power providers.
"I promise the people of this state that the utility companies will be held accountable," he said, ranking Westchester behind Nassau and Suffolk as the counties with the most unresolved damage from Sandy.
In Westchester, 44,752 customers overall remained without electricity, according to utility outage websites late Tuesday night. Orange & Rockland Utilities said 12,989 customers were still without power in Rockland and 4,637 in Orange, but that electric service had been restored to 225,000, or 90 percent, of its customers.
Overall, about 350,000 utility customers in the state overall have yet to have their power restored, according to the governor. It appeared that homeowners in the Hudson Valley have fared better than their counterparts in Long Island, who staged protests and complained as more than 200,000 remained without power.
In Rockland County, officials had opened a shelter and "warming center" at the community college campus, said Ron Levine, spokesman for County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef. People who lost their homes, or cannot return to their homes because of storm destruction, can extend stays in hotels and motels through FEMA's transitional housing program, Levine said.
"It's important that people know about the temporary housing assistance that's out there so they can get help if they're eligible," Levine said. "There's still 14,000 people in Rockland without power. We have a lot of folks out there trying to get to the hardest hit areas that are left in the cold and we're trying to assist them the best we can."
County officials planned to adjust their plans according to changing forecasts, Levine said.
"It's nice that other people have their power on but it doesn't mean much until you have your power on," he said.
Although they still don't know when the doors will open, Rockland officials said the county's FEMA Assistance Center will be set up at Provident Bank Park, the home stadium of the Rockland Boulders. In the meantime, FEMA will join the county to deliver aid to Stony Point, Piermont and other hard-hit areas in the county.
Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said eight Con Ed crews were working in the river town municipality Tuesday, but that progress has been painfully slow.
"People who haven't had their power restored are angry and upset that they will be forgotten," he said.
Hudson Valley residents are also frustrated at the prospect of having to deal with another storm so soon after Sandy.
"If this next storm comes, it's not going to be good," said Kristen Sullivan, 26, of West Nyack, who teaches science and special ed at Tappan Zee High School in Orangeburg.
"I'm concerned that everyone will be OK," said Sullivan. "At the school, we're just making sure that all the students are safe, that they have food and they're warm."
The new storm is expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon and to linger in the area into Thursday morning. Tides could rise 2-3 feet above normal on the Sound Shore, but there should be no impact on the Hudson River, according to News12 forecaster Brysen VanEck.
VanEck said the forecast could evolve as meteorologists get a more precise fix on the storm's track.
"Potentially, we'll have gusts up to 60 mph, but they will probably lower that to a wind advisory, with gusts of 40 mph," VanEck said.
If the storm veers farther east, the Hudson Valley may trade damaging winds for a dusting of snow, with accumulations of not more than an inch, he said.
John Rogers, of White Plains, remained defiant in the face of the storm. When he was asked what he is doing to prepare, he replied: "Not a damn thing!"
Meanwhile, Washington continued its relief efforts in areas hit hard by Sandy. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will open a center at Provident Bank Park in Pomona, according to the Rockland County Emergency Operations Center. The opening date has yet to be determined.
Sen. Charles Schumer on Tuesday called on FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to set up a disaster-recovery center in Westchester.
Also on Tuesday, the Rockland County Health Department lifted a boil-water advisory issued as a precaution after Sandy hit for affected customers in Piermont and Grand View.
With Elizabeth Daza, Kari Granville, John Dyer and Sarah Armaghan