Irene Haunts Putnam Days After Storm

Greg Ball distributes dry ice in Mahopac

Though Putnam County saw an end to the bombardment of rain and wind late Sunday night, residents dealt with the ramifications of Hurricane Irene days after the storm vanished from the radar.

Thousands of residents remained without power throughout the weekend and into mid-week. Fallen trees tore down electrical lines across Putnam, leaving most of the county without access to electricity.

The village of Cold Spring experienced major flooding, especially on Main Street toward the Hudson River. According to board trustee Bruce Campbell, residents had to be evacuated from the riverfront until the water subsided.

Philipstown got hit pretty hard,” Campbell said at a board of trustees meeting this past Tuesday.

NYSEG reported 24,000 power outages for Aug. 22. As of Sept. 3, the gas and electric provider reported that 99 percent of customers’ power had been restored—however, 300 people were still left without power in the company’s Brewster corridor, which includes parts of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties.

Putnam Valley’s acting highway superintendent Gary Wulfhop criticized NYSEG for the provider’s lack of response and communication regarding electrical restoration to his town. Though Wulfhop admits NYSEG did the proper preventative work by taking down dangerous trees prior to storm, he said there was little coordination between the provider’s electrical line trucks and Nelson Tree Service trucks.

“For the first two or three days, we’d have one line truck with no tree crew or three tree crews and no line truck,” Wulfhop said. “The last road was open by Thursday—it could’ve been open in two days had we had the cooperation of NYSEG.”

A major storm like Hurricane Irene should have prompted NYSEG to bring more crews into the area, Wulfhop said. “It took a lot longer than it should’ve.”

Kent town supervisor Katherine Doherty said NYSEG hadn’t anticipated such extensive damage caused by Irene, which ultimately caused delays in service.

“Appartently NYSEG’s wires were more damaged in this storm that in previous storm and that threw them for a loop,” Doherty said.

As crews repair electrical wires and remove dead trees from the sides of roads, the county will be able to begin an evaluation regarding damage costs caused from the storm. As of this past Friday, Westchester and Rockland counties were approved for aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Plans for Putnam County were still up in the air as of Monday. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer was set to visit Philipstown to see damage caused by Irene firsthand. In official statement released by Schumer on Sept. 1, the senator urged the Obama administration to boost its disaster relief fund from $792 million.

“Early estimates put the damage at $1 billion in New York, and as waters recede further, who knows how high it could climb,” Schumer said. “I’m going to fight to make sure the federal dollars are available to help us rebuild, and then work as hard as I can to get New York its fair share.”

In Gillibrand and Schumer’s letter to the federal Office of Management and Budget’s director Jack Lew, both senators urged the agency to reevaluate the amount of funds allotted for both the country and state’s disaster relief funds in wake of Irene.

“It may be months before we fully know the extent of damage caused by Hurricane, and it could take many more months and years for New Yorkers to completely rebuild what they have lost,” the senators’ letter read. “That is why it is critical to ensure that the federal government is realistic about what it could cost to rebuild, and also anticipates the strain that future disasters may have on the limited funding that is available.”



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