With superstorm Sandy fresh in mind, officials are urging people to prepare for Hurricane Joaquin.
Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said it's too early to know if the county will need to evacuate the South Shore, as it did during Sandy, which ravaged parts of Long Island in October 2012. But he said that even if the storm veers off, residents should expect power outages and coastal flooding because of an expected 6 inches to 8 inches of heavy rain.
"We are asking our residents to be prepared," Mangano said.StoryFor Joaquin, travel agents, cruise lines 'wait and see'
"We are preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Mangano said -- almost exactly the same words used by Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone in talking about his county's preparedness.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said he had activated the state's emergency operations center in Albany and said the state's strategic reserve of 2.5 million gallons of fuel stores in Suffolk County would be available in an emergency.
He said the Long Island Rail Road and other transit agencies would have workers ready to clear fallen trees and handle any power outages.
"It is too early to say whether the railroads would need to suspend service if a powerful storm strikes our region," Cuomo said.
Nassau, Mangano said, has its own checklist to prepare for the storm, including putting sandbags in place, fueling police vehicles and ambulances, and ensuring that radios have enough backup batteries.
Mangano encouraged residents to have a "to-go kit" ready, gas up the car, and have enough water and food for at least three days. He also encouraged those who live in low-lying areas to partner with family and friends and plan to evacuate to homes in higher elevations should the hurricane hit.
Bellone urged similar measures for Suffolk residents. He said the county was in discussion with officials on Fire Island, a barrier island breached by the wave during Sandy, and that he would have more information about that Friday when the storm path might become clearer.
Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said Islip was "obviously a vulnerable part of the geography of Long Island with our entire South Shore of the Town of Islip either on the bay or the ocean."
She said people who are away from their second homes on Fire Island should get there as soon as possible to secure outdoor furniture and grills against potential strong winds.
Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma will remain open, even if airlines cancel flights, town officials said. They said people with travel plans should monitor the individual airlines for any cancellations.
Bellone, surrounded by 12 military surplus Humvees and two trucks for high water rescues, said the county would monitor the storm track.
"Hopefully this is just a drill," he said.
Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said that whatever path Joaquin takes, "flooding is inevitable." Southern areas of the town, particularly Oceanside, were badly damaged by winds and flooding during Sandy.
"As we look at the various storm models and messages where Joaquin might land, the town wants to be prepared for its residents," Murray said Thursday morning at the town's highway department simultaneously while the town board met in Hempstead.
She said the town is clearing storm drains and fueling town trucks and equipment for storm response. The town is also removing all boats from town marinas and building up dunes at town beaches. Residents are being asked to either remove their boats from harbors or secure them.
The Nassau County Office of Emergency Management said it has begun implementing its 120-hour plan should Joaquin approach Nassau.
"Vital supplies are now stationed in communities across the county -- available to quickly dispatch lifesaving supplies directly to neighborhoods in need," the agency said.
It added that county residents should familiarize themselves with evacuation routes and secure their property in the event of a hurricane.
Public works crews in the City of Long Beach, devastated by Sandy, have been building a berm to connect with newly constructed dunes. Workers are also inspecting and clearing storm drains.
With John Asbury, Sophia Chang and William Murphy