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Cuomo budget includes millions for storm preparedness

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 -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's proposed 2014-15 budget calls for nearly $50 million in initiatives aimed at better preparing New York for extreme weather, including a string of devastating storms capped by superstorm Sandy.

Cuomo is proposing a $15 million "state-of-the-art weather detection system" to replace the current 27-station statewide system with more than 100 stations.

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

"This new college, a soft definition of 'college,' is really across SUNY and is going to be a major program," said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher at 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 to cost millions more if it's implemented fully, legislators were told.

At that hearing, Assemb. Robert Oaks (R-Macedon) noted that SUNY at 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 and sometimes churn for several days.

Cuomo's budget now being aired for the first time also includes a $17 million plan to strengthen coasts, bridges and other infrastructure, water systems and communities against major storms.

The budget calls for $100,000 more for further training of first responders in communities.

The new spending shows a significant priority in a budget that is proposed to hold the spending increase to 2 percent.

"Extreme weather in many ways changes everything," Cuomo said in last month'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 trends and create better models for predicting powerful storms, such as the 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, each were thought to happen only once a century.

The governor said the new statewide weather detection is needed because New York is "uniquely vulnerable" to extreme weather. The system would give immediate data needed to prepare for storms, and New York would be just the sixth state to adopt such a broad system, Cuomo said.

The system would better predict the severity and path of winter storms, he said.

"After what we went through, we literally have to re-imagine New York, because all the rules, all the theories, are out the window," Cuomo said.


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