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McKinstry: First days after Sandy test the Lower Hudson Valley

Jeff Hudson, of the Ulster County Department of

Jeff Hudson, of the Ulster County Department of Public Works, and his crew cleaned up debris washed on to River Road in Ulster Park on Oct. 30, after Hurricane Sandy. The Hudson River rose to a record 9.54 feet near Poughkeepsie. Credit: Meghan Murphy

Few were spared the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, a historic storm that devastated the Eastern Seaboard and now has millions of people cleaning up in its aftermath.

Throughout the Hudson Valley, schools, businesses and roads were all closed Tuesday as a result of this powerful storm. Millions of people lost power -- mostly because of whipping winds that downed trees and electric wires -– and many people were affected by flooding. Although the storm is gone, we are still at the mercy of Sandy.

Consolidated Edison reported that 1.3 million customers in the metropolitan area lost power (207,226 in Westchester) — five times as many customers lost power from Sandy than from Tropical Storm Irene last year. It was by far, the biggest msot damaging storm in the company’s history.

Across the Hudson River, Orange & Rockland Utilities on Tuesday reported 75,000 of its 111,782 customers were without power in Rockland County and 58,000 of its roughly 99,000 in Orange County. With Central Hudson, 82,000 customers across Dutchess, Ulster, Orange and Putnam suffered that same fate.

Those numbers aren’t good. But the power will be restored -– eventually.

Among the most tragic consequences of Sandy were the deaths of four people in Westchester and Rockland counties: two men -– one in Yonkers, another in Pearl River -– and two children in North Salem. All were a result of falling trees. No amount of storm preparation can help these families and friends cope with such tragic losses. For sure, those suffering are asking why this has happened. There may be no satisfactory answer -– not for loved ones.

The rest of us may be pondering the hows and whys of such storms as well, though the answers may be easier to come by. While it could be days or even weeks before power is fully restored to communities in the Hudson Valley, it may take years before our infrastructure, particularly New York City’s, returns.

Even Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday spoke of this as a “long-term recovery and reconstruction effort.”

The first task is to get through the coming days. Then we’ll have consider the longer-term rebuilding efforts as these seemingly “hundred year” storms are hitting our shores on a regular basis.