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Utilities, officials stress ongoing preparation at Patchogue hurricane readiness event

Officials gathered Monday in Patchogue to talk about strengthening infrastructure and new technologies that are helping Long Island prepare for the next major storm. (Credit: News 12 Long Island)

Three days into the Atlantic hurricane season, officials gathered Monday on a windy Patchogue dock to talk about readiness for Long Island’s next major storm — always with superstorm Sandy and its devastation in the rearview mirror.

“There will be another hurricane,” said John O'Connell, PSEG's vice president of transmission and distribution, “and we intend to be ready.”

Area power and gas officials told of ways they’re continuing to strengthen infrastructure, address hazards, build relationships and introduce new technologies to help with the process.

National Grid is launching a three-year project to install some 58,000 automatic shut-off valves on gas meters in homes and businesses along flood-prone areas, particularly the Island’s South Shore, as well as the Rockaways, said James Flannery, vice president of power generation operations

The valves have sensors “that immediately stop the flow of gas…as soon as flooding is detected,” he said. The valves can be operated remotely, meaning “specific customers can be shut off instead of entire neighborhoods.” Installation is expected to begin this fall.

He was among the speakers from New York State and Nassau and Suffolk counties at the annual media event, convened by the American Red Cross on Long Island to heighten awareness and encourage residents to have a plan in place. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine were among the officials who attended.

With an eye to getting lights on more quickly, PSEG Long Island has also turned to technology to help get any out-of-state workers, brought in to help with disaster situations, better connected with the job at hand. That’s with a new mobile app giving them access to electronic maps, as well as the ability to report their progress in real time, eliminating the need for paper work, said O’Connell.

Apart from new technologies, PSEG has also engaged this past year in trimming trees away from lines “to the tune of 3,000 miles” and has inspected 45,000 poles, replacing 9,000 of them, O’Connell said.

The season just starting is expected to bring near-normal activity, according to last month's outlook from federal forecasters. There’s a 70 percent likelihood of nine to 15 named storms, of which four to eight could become hurricanes, according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center. Two to four of those storms could become major hurricanes, meaning Category 3 or higher.

In the team-relationships realm National Grid this past year doubled to eight the number of its “tabletop drills,” Flannery said. They’re hypothetical weather scenarios to practice responsiveness, conducted in conjunction with fire, police, emergency managers and the American Red Cross.

Besides the chance for “knowledge transfer” among partners, the drills help build relationships, he said. Working “side by side during these exercises will pay off during a real emergency.”

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