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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

State still has much to do to prepare for disasters

A line of people waiting to fill their

A line of people waiting to fill their gas cans forms around the Hess station on Deer Park Avenue and Weeks Road in Deer Park. (Nov. 1, 2012) Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Nearly a year ago -- with Tropical Storm Irene fresh in the memory -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced the creation of five regional centers where emergency equipment such as generators would be stockpiled.

"The Disaster Logistics Centers will ensure that the state has resources and equipment pre-positioned in areas where they would be most needed in an emergency," trumpeted the administration's Feb. 22 announcement.

Three of the five centers were reportedly in existence when superstorm Sandy struck eight months later. Unfortunately, these three didn't include the one for Long Island and New York City -- which still isn't up and running.

Generals tend to fight the last war, and perhaps for the same reason, elected officials seem to prepare for the last big storm -- or even the one before it. Yet no two public disasters -- natural or otherwise -- are the same.

Unresolved problems do recur, however. The Long Island Power Authority announced, on the brink of last week's blizzard, that it would cede control and communication to its contractor National Grid. That's because after superstorm Sandy struck in the fall, Cuomo & Co. lambasted the performance of both LIPA and National Grid amid protracted power outages.

Yet the post-Sandy outcry over LIPA marked only a rediscovery of what administration officials had already bemoaned just after Irene -- that information was slower in coming from LIPA than from other utilities, and something had to be done.

Gasoline supply, like massive flooding, was one of the newer problems delivered by Sandy.

While Gov. Chris Christie and New Jersey officials promptly imposed a gas-rationing system after supply facilities were damaged, Cuomo and New York officials, for some reason, declined to do so. Lines at the pumps grew. Shortly after New York City, Nassau and Suffolk finally imposed odd-and-even days for fuel -- two weeks after the storm -- calm returned. Mayor Michael Bloomberg explained Nov. 9: "We have to do something, and this is something that is practical and enforceable and understandable, and doing something is much better than doing nothing."

On Jan. 9, Cuomo called in his State of the State message for "redundancies in our fuel system and putting in place generators and pumping systems that are readily deployable. Actions such as these will avoid panic at the pump, lengthy lines and frustrated motorists."

It will be worth seeing how substantially all that gets followed up, by the governor and his study commissions -- and what adjustments, if any, the blizzard may add.

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