Sand is dumped on Robert Moses State Park Field 5...

Sand is dumped on Robert Moses State Park Field 5 to repair parts of the beach destroyed by winter storm erosion. (March 29, 2010) Credit: James Carbone

Though the impact of a violent nor'easter last month exposed areas of concern, Long Island has made strides in the last half decade preparing for disasters by developing evacuation routes and designating shelter space.

Still, officials can't be complacent.

Those are the messages state Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) said he took away from a discussion on the Island's disaster readiness held Thursday at Adelphi University. The meeting had a Nassau focus and drew elected officials, law enforcement, emergency management specialists and LIPA chief executive Kevin Law, among others.

Hannon convened the meeting after the nor'easter that struck the Island with unforeseen force March 13, overwhelming 911 systems in Nassau and Suffolk counties and knocking out power to 263,000 LIPA customers.

LIPA faced criticism after the storm for not relaying information about power restoration efforts in a timely way. Law said his company had gotten the message and was looking to improve communication with village mayors and local road superintendents. "We certainly realize our role," Law said. "Our job is to get the lights back on."

Hannon, joined by state Sens. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Assemb. David McDonough (R-Merrick), asked questions and listened as the assembled stakeholders outlined the progress they'd made in disaster readiness, stressing the importance of coordinating their efforts.

The discussion not only looked back, but also forward to an Atlantic hurricane season that forecasters predict will be above average in activity. Eight hurricanes are expected this year, according to the Colorado State University Hurricane Forecast Team, 5.9 is the average. The season starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

Jim Callahan, Nassau's emergency management commissioner, said Long Island is statistically due for a major hurricane strike. The last one to make landfall on the Island was Hurricane Gloria in September 1985. In August 1991, a swath of Hurricane Bob thundered across the East End, killing two people before making landfall in Rhode Island, according to the National Weather Service.

Officials said that governments can only do so much to mitigate such storms and expressed concern that many Long Islanders don't take hurricane threats seriously enough or understand the importance of having an individual hurricane plan. "The message is, 'Yes, Virginia, we do get hurricanes on Long Island,' " said Nassau County Red Cross chief executive Frank Cassano. "And you have to be prepared."

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