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NY Legislature considers several measures aimed at severe storms

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo at the

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo at the Capital on July 18, 2013. (Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.)

ALBANY – New York’s notoriously nasty winters and a string of deadly storms capped by superstorm Sandy is turning into big business.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing a $15 million “state-of-the-art weather detection system.” It would replace the current 27-station statewide system with more than 100 stations.

Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget proposal now being analyzed by the Legislature also includes a new $15 million college for the State University of New York. The proposed College of Emergency Preparedness, Homeland Security and Cybsecurity would be the nation’s first college of its kind.

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“This new college, a soft definition of ‘college,’ is really across SUNY and is going to be a major program,” SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said during Thursday’s legislative budget hearing. She said the college will make use of professors and resources at SUNY campuses in Albany, Binghamton and Oswego.

Each proposal is expected cost millions more if fully implemented, legislators were told.

At that legislative hearing, Assemb. Robert Oaks (R-Palmyra) noted that SUNY Oswego on the shore of Lake Ontario recently received a $320,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study lake-effect snowstorms. Lake-effect storms that hit much of upstate often drop feet of snow in a day or two.

Oaks was told by SUNY officials that all of the efforts would be coordinated.

“Extreme weather in many ways changes everything,” Cuomo said in January’s State of the State address. “Early detection will literally save lives and we haven’t been getting the correct information early enough.”

Cuomo said data collected under his proposed expanded weather stations would be used by New York universities. Researchers could reveal long-term trends and create better models for predicting powerful storms, like snowstorms that have battered Long Island this winter.

Cuomo notes the devastating storms  -- Irene and Lee, which hit from the Adirondacks to the Catskills, and Sandy, which slammed New York City and Long Island -- were each thought to be likely only once a century.

“After what we went through we literally have to reimagine New York because all the rules, all the theories are out the window,” Cuomo said.

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