Hurricane Sandy: Westchester County awaits word on disaster aid, 215,000 without power

Jeff Hudson, of the Ulster County Department of Jeff Hudson, of the Ulster County Department of Public Works, and his crew cleaned up debris washed on to River Road in Ulster Park on Oct. 30, after Hurricane Sandy. The Hudson River rose to a record 9.54 feet near Poughkeepsie. Photo Credit: Meghan Murphy

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Westchester County felt Hurricane Sandy's full wrath: 215,000 without power, hundreds of trees toppled, three dead.

The hardest hit area in the Hudson Valley, ConEd and NYSEG crews were working throughout the county to restore power Tuesday. They asked for patience as they tackled record outages.

"To put this storm and the current damage into perspective, the day after Irene was warm and sunny and we were able to begin our restoration work immediately," said NYSEG president Mark Lynch in a statement. "That restoration effort across the NYSEG service area took about eight days. Today we are still fighting inclement weather . . . and the damage to our facilities appears to be much worse than it was following Irene."

Nearly 320 people took to the Red Cross' five shelters in Westchester and its shelter in Greenwich, Conn. on Monday night, mostly because of power outages, said spokeswoman Carolyn Sherwin. By 2 p.m. on Tuesday, that number had dwindled to around 150, she said.

"Today a lot of people went home to their houses, to check on their houses," said Sherwin. "They may be coming back to grab a meal or spend the night."

Sandy also walloped communities on the Long Island Shore and the Hudson River, destroying Rye Playland's boardwalk and shutting down large sections of Mamaroneck, where more than 70 roads remained closed on Tuesday and town government was operating out of the Weaver Street Firehouse.

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In Tarrytown, the storm surge on the river left three pleasure boats on the Metro North train tracks, said Mayor Drew Fixell.

"The river was higher than it ever was," he said.

The surge flooded the Crotonville and North Yonkers sewage pump stations and the Yonkers Wastewater Treatment Plant, forcing operators to shut down the facilities, releasing sewage into the river. Westchester County health authorities have warned people to keep clear of the Hudson.

Still, residents and others said they were lucky the storm didn't bring heavy rains to the county.

Because the river and Sound were as much as 12 feet higher than usual, rainwater would have had nowhere to go in a downpour, likely causing floods inland that would have been far worse than the overflows that hit the Saw Mill and Bronx Rivers and smaller streams on Monday night and early Tuesday morning.

"In a bad rain, this whole place becomes a pond," said Vivian Leong, gesturing at her front yard on Beck Avenue next to Rye Playland. "This time it didn't because there wasn't a lot of rain."

County Executive Robert Astorino, touring Rye Playland on Tuesday afternoon, said he expected to calculate the full economic cost of the storm in the coming days.

He was in regular contact with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, he said, and expected Westchester County to be declared a federal disaster area soon. Presently, in New York State, President Barack Obama has declared disaster zones in Bronx, Kings, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Suffolk and Queens Counties.

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Under federal rules, said Astorino, the county would be eligible for federal relief aid if Hurricane Sandy caused more than $3.2 million worth of damage. The destruction at Rye Playland alone could account for much of that, he said.

The human toll in Westchester was a heavy one: three of the at least 27 deaths in New York. In North Salem, a 100-foot tree fell on the Bonnieview Street home of 11-year-old Jack Baumler, killing him and his friend, Michael Robson, 13.

Yonkers resident Tiago Neto died when his car hit a tree in Greenburgh on the Sprain Brook Parkway.

The three all were killed at around 8 p.m. Monday when Sandy's winds were at their most furious, reaching more than 70 miles per hour, said News 12 meteorologist Joe Rao.

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