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Nassau unveils equipment to cope with next storm

Nassau officials Tuesday unveiled an array of new equipment they said will better prepare the county for the next major storm, including 10 swift water rescue boats and 50 solar-powered trailers that can power traffic signals during widespread electrical outages.

Some of the equipment -- which also includes solar-powered message signs and high-axle vehicles to reach flooded areas -- came from military surplus at no cost to the county, officials said.

The rest was funded through a combination of $1.6 million in state and federal grants and by using $4 million of the nearly $200 million in storm recovery borrowing authorized by county lawmakers last November, Katie Grilli-Robles, a spokeswoman for County Executive Edward Mangano, said.

At an afternoon news conference, Mangano said that Nassau's advanced planning efforts, coupled with its adding of resources, has earned it a formal "storm ready" designation from the National Weather Service.

He noted that during Sandy, the county actually had to commandeer private boats to make swift water rescues, and needed federal help to reach residents trapped in their homes due to floodwaters and debris.

"If you remember, no one expected nine and half feet of tidal surge, three and four feet in the street," Mangano said. "High-axle vehicles were brought in by the National Guard. Today, Nassau County has some of its own."

Gary Conte, a warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the service's voluntary "storm ready" program includes 2,133 municipalities and agencies, from Suffolk County to private hospitals and sporting arenas. He said participating entities provide details of their established storm-readiness protocols and stay in frequent communication with weather service staff and meteorologists.

"If we have the right plans in place, we update them and learn lessons from them," Conte said. "It's all about learning what to do better and how to do better the next time."

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