Can Long Island be Evacuated in an Emergency?

How would Long Island be evacuated in an emergency?

The short answer: There is no formal plan. Officials have ideas and tactics that work on a smaller scale, but it is logistically complicated.

The long answer: Between traffic on the Long Island Expressway, bridge construction and signal troubles on the Long Island Rail Road, there’s no shortage of headache-inducing obstacles in trying to get off the Island.

But what if there were an emergency requiring evacuation?

As it turns out, evacuation tactics are pretty standard no matter where you are, said Craig Craft, commissioner of Nassau County’s Office of Emergency Management. And the tactics deployed are going to depend on the emergency.

“We’d have to pull the plug and make that decision days in advance,” he said.

Contraflow, the practice of shifting highways so all lanes move in the same direction would be a good option for an event such as superstorm Sandy, he said.

Another option, though not very efficient, would be to use ferries to move people across the Long Island Sound.

But even a storm like Sandy wasn’t enough to require evacuating the whole Island.

“What would be a reason that we would consider an evacuation of that magnitude? Maybe a Category 5 hurricane?” Craft said. “I could see us moving people to the center of the Island and taking over a lot of areas in the center as shelters.”

In the event of a terror attack or catastrophe that affects power or air quality, Craft said, officials would tell the public to shelter in place.

Part of the difficulty in coming up with a comprehensive evacuation plan is dealing with the size of the local population, officials said.

Long Island boasts about 3 million residentsacross Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to U.S. Census records. However, any event that requires an evacuation of Long Island would also likely affect New York City and its dense boroughs, which 8.5 million people call home.

So to move more than 11 million people, it would have to be a true emergency with lots of coordination, Craft said, and that definition is hard to pin down.

Fears about a lack of an evacuation plan helped doom the roughly $6 billion Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant, which was officially decommissioned in 1994 after two decades of controversy over its safety.

In 1983, the Suffolk County Legislature determined the county could not safely and effectively evacuate its residents in the event of a nuclear disaster, marking the project’s decline.

Of course, people can always choose to self-evacuate. For some, a transportation breakdown could be enough to leave, said Chris Dowhie, owner of Plan B Marine. Plan B allows wealthy clients in Manhattan to purchase a very specific type of insurance policy — access to quick, safe water transport to the mainland.

Clients pay as much as $750 a month per person to have a private escape boat available. Plan B staff have trained clients on how to use the twin-engine, military-grade boats for the three-minute ride to New Jersey from Manhattan’s West Side and Dowhie said clients include diplomats, investment advisers and college students with concerned parents.

“Mass transit, power failure, any kind of event that’s going to delay you more than three, four hours from your commute,” Dowhie said. “It doesn’t have to be a 911 scenario or zombie apocalypse, it could be a generic inconvenience.”

The bottom line is that while you may want to leave Manhattan or Long Island, there’s little chance everyone will be asked to.

“There’s a lot of options out there, but the likelihood of doing an island evacuation is very slim,” Craft said.

Originally Posted on Newsday.

Hurricane Matthew makes landfall in vulnerable Haiti

Hurricane Matthew, seen in a satellite image taken

Hurricane Matthew roared into the southwestern coast of Haiti on Tuesday, threatening a largely rural corner of the impoverished country with devastating storm conditions as it headed north toward Cuba and the eastern coast of Florida.

The dangerous Category 4 storm made landfall around dawn on Haiti’s southern peninsula, where many people live along the coast in shacks of wood or simple concrete blocks that are ill-suited to the force of the system’s maximum sustained winds of 145 mph (230 kph).

Matthew was causing major damage though the extent was not immediately known, according to Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste, the director of the country’s Civil Protection Agency.

“It’s much too early to know how bad things are but we do know there are a lot of houses that have been destroyed or damaged in the south,” Jean-Baptiste told The Associated Press.

Haitian authorities had tried to evacuate people from the most vulnerable areas ahead of the storm but many had been reluctant to leave their property. Some sought shelter only after the worst was already upon them.

“Many people are now asking for help, but it’s too late because there is no way to go evacuate them,” said Fonie Pierre, director of Catholic Relief Services for the Les Cayes area, who was huddled in her office with about 20 people.

Matthew was expected to bring 15-25 inches of rain, and up to 40 inches (100 centimeters) in isolated places, along with up to 10 feet (3 meters) of storm surge and battering waves, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami.

“They are getting everything a major hurricane can throw at them,” Feltgen said.

The storm was moving along the Windward Passage between Haiti and Jamaica, where it was also dumping heavy rain that caused flooding in parts of the country. It was headed for southeastern Cuba and then into the Bahamas.

The hurricane center said it would likely issue a tropical storm watch or hurricane watch for the Florida Keys or the Florida peninsula and that it could create dangerous beach conditions along the East Coast later in the week.

As dawn broke, people in the south coast tourist town of Port Salut described howling winds and big waves slamming the beaches and washing over the coastal road.

“The winds are making so many bad noises. We’re just doing our best to stay calm,” said Jenniflore Desrosiers as she huddled with her family in her fragile cinderblock home, which had sprung numerous leaks from pelting rain.

Haiti’s civil protection office said a number of south coast towns partially flooded overnight. Landslides and downed trees on roadways were preventing movement in numerous areas. The few places that were on the electrical grid had apparently lost power and cellphone service was spotty.

Haitian officials spent Monday trying to persuade shantytown residents to take advantage of shelters being set up, but many refused.

“If we lose our things we are not going to get them back!” said Toussaint Laine, an unemployed man who lives with his family in a shack in Tabarre, a suburb of Port-au-Prince, the capital.

In an unregulated sprawl of shacks built on hillsides near the northern edge of the capital, some poor families did what they could to reinforce their tin-and-tarp home and hoped for the best.

“I know my house could easily blow away. All I can do is pray and then pray some more,” Ronlande Francois said by the tarp-walled shack where she lives with her unemployed husband and three children.

Haiti’s civil protection agency earlier reported one death, a fisherman who drowned in rough water churned up by the storm. That raised Matthew’s death toll to at least three. One man died in Colombia and a teen was killed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines as the storm moved through the Caribbean.

Cuba’s government declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces and workers removed traffic lights from poles in the city of Santiago to keep them from falling when the storm hit.

At one point a Category 5 storm, and the region’s strongest hurricane since Felix in 2007,Matthew was expected to make landfall in Cuba about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities flew out about 700 spouses and children of service members.

As of 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT), the storm was located about 10 miles (15 kilometers) east of Tiburon, Haiti, and 125 miles (200 kilometers) south of the eastern tip of Cuba. It was moving north near 9 mph (15 kph).


North Hempstead urges emergency disaster kit preparation in PSA

The Town of North Hempstead has launched a video public service announcement encouraging town residents to make an emergency kit for man-made and natural disasters, including hurricanes.

The $2,500 PSA, featuring a family preparing its emergency supplies kit, was funded by a $7,500 grant from the Adelphi University Center for Health Innovation in Garden City. Meghan McPherson, the center’s assistant director, said people should gather basic survival items such as water, nonperishable food and batteries for potential emergencies.

“It’s exceptionally important for citizens to have an emergency preparedness kit,” McPherson said. “It’s important to have [enough to last for] at least 72 hours for someone to get to you.”

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said the one-minute PSA was designed to inform and entertain viewers.

“You can talk about something as much as you want, but seeing it in action gives you a completely different perspective on what you have to do to prepare in the event of an emergency,” Bosworth said.

The video, airing on North Hempstead Television in English until the end of October, will later be subtitled in Chinese and Spanish. It is airing on Cablevision, which owns Newsday. It will be on Verizon FiOS and more Cablevision channels in August. Hurricane season is June 1 to Nov. 30.

The video is part of a campaign including the town updating its community emergency plan. Superstorm Sandy in 2012 caused more than $20 million in damage to the town’s residential and commercial properties and town facilities.

“Superstorm Sandy was probably stronger than anybody could have ever imagined,” said Ryan Mulholland, the town’s deputy director of communications. “Some people were prepared, some were not. We want to make sure this time that everyone is prepared in case anything like that happens again.”


Record Rains Batter Long Island

Record amounts of rainfall lashed much of Long Island over the course of 10 hours Wednesday, with at least one driver killed in a chaotic commute that saw major roads transformed into rivers during the morning rush hour.

Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma recorded the highest amount of rainfall, with more than 13 inches in 24 hours, said Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service. Most of the rain fell from about midnight Tuesday to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

“It’s just astounding to be able to pull that off in such a short period of time,” said Mr. Morrin

The rainfall marked a new state record, topping the previous benchmark of 11.6 inches that fell during tropical storm Irene on Aug. 27 and 28, 2011, at Tannersville, a Catskills village about 50 miles from Albany.

The Northeast Regional Climate Center said on its website that the rainfall totals seen at Islip were a “once in a 200-year” storm event.

Marie Guzzardo, who lives in Bay Shore on Long Island’s South Shore, said water began entering her home through the floor underneath a toilet.

“Luckily I spotted it early enough where I was able to keep it under control,” said Ms. Guzzardo, who added that a nearby creek flooded.

Emergency crews were called to the Bay Shore Commons shopping plaza on Main Street when a sinkhole opened up about 10:30 a.m.—as much of the day’s rain began to lighten—and nearly swallowed a passing car, said Lisa Fraim, who works at nearby Mediterranean Express restaurant.

“It’s pretty large, the size of a van or truck,” said Ms. Fraim, who said the sinkhole opened up early Wednesday morning.

“A car had driven by and they heard a loud thud,” she said. “The car was fine, it didn’t get caught, but that’s when everyone came out…. That’s when the police arrived and roped it off.”

The weather service said the heaviest rains fell in western Suffolk County, about 50 miles east of Manhattan, in places such as Bay Shore and Islip.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone declared a state of emergency, saying more than 9 inches of rain hit parts of the area over a two-hour period.

The Suffolk County Police Department said one man died around 5 a.m. when he lost control of his Jeep Liberty as he drove west on the Long Island Expressway near exit 49. The vehicle was then hit from behind by a tractor-trailer before crashing into a cement divider and bursting into flames, officials said.

An elderly man was also rescued after becoming stranded on a flooded road at Coram, police said. Two officers on traffic duties noticed a car driven by Anthony Monticciolo, 86, of Centereach, become disabled by the floodwaters. The waters, about 6 feet deep, had begun filling up his Subaru, making him unable to exit the vehicle.

Near exits 38 and 39 along the Southern State Parkway, 47 vehicles were located with 52 civilians either trapped inside or standing in the water and seeking help, said Robert Cabano, first assistant chief of the North Babylon Volunteer Fire Department.

“Cars were literally floating like a boat,” said Mr. Cabano. “I’ve been in the department 18 years and I’ve never seen that.”

Officials said the storm forced closures on 11 major highways on Long Island.

Residents of Bay Shore, where 11.35 inches of rain were recorded, said their homes had been flooded during the downpour.

Kieren Py, who moved to the area from Far Rockaway after his home was destroyed in 2012 during superstorm Sandy, said he was grateful his house was still standing.

“[Sandy] was more terrible, more dangerous,” said Dr. Py, who works at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore. “This is just water damage.”

In response to the deluge, the office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated the state Emergency Operations Center to mop up the damage.

Officials said 400 maintenance staff scrambled to work on affected roads and bridges, pumping water and cleaning debris.

Suffolk County police increased the number of patrol officers on the streets and added 911 operators for the influx of calls, officials said.

Several factors led to the storm, which started with a low-pressure system advancing from Washington to New York several days ago, Mr. Morrin said.

Coupled with an “upper level disturbance” and moist air being pushed by winds from the Atlantic Ocean, the conditions created a “one-two blow punch” on the New York tri-state area, Mr. Morrin said.

About 70 trains on the Long Island Rail Road—about half the morning trains—experienced extensive delays or had to be canceled, an LIRR spokesman said.

One of the worst affected areas were the tracks between Huntington and Port Jefferson where services were suspended after 50 feet of ballast was washed out from under the tracks.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said all services were expected to return to normal by Thursday.

—Michael Ruiz
contributed to this article.

Corrections & Amplifications

The last name of Tim Morrin of the National Weather Service was incorrectly given as Morris in one instance in an earlier version of this article.



Farmingdale State to host disaster preparedness workshops

Long Island will play host to the first in a series of state disaster preparedness workshops aimed at training New Yorkers on emergency response.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Sunday that the state will launch the Citizen Preparedness Corps Training Program on Saturday at Farmingdale State College with the goal of hosting similar workshops throughout the state this year and providing training for up to 100,000 New Yorkers.

“Severe weather events are becoming more frequent and extreme, and to make sure that our communities are safe, we need more New Yorkers than ever to be prepared and trained to respond,” Cuomo said in a statement.

The program, which is free and open to the public, will feature training sessions led by the New York National Guard, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control, Cuomo said. Local emergency management officials will also be on hand for the training sessions that will include advice on developing a family emergency plan and tips on stocking up on emergency supplies.

“In times of emergency or extreme difficulty caused by a disaster, it is often citizens in their homes or on their residential blocks who are immediately faced with the need to respond,” said Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jerome M. Hauer in a statement.

“This training effort will better prepare them for the types of response activities they should engage in to safeguard themselves and their families and possibly their neighbors.”

Cuomo’s office said space is limited for the program being held Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. at Farmingdale State College’s Roosevelt Hall.

Those interested in attending are required to register online at nysprepare.


Weather Forecast


Long Island Weather Forecast for 1-21-14
  • Tuesday… Mostly cloudy with a chance of snow in the morning, then overcast with snow. High of 23F with a windchill as low as 5F. Breezy. Winds from the NNE at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of snow 90%.

    Tuesday Night… Overcast with snow. Low of 12F with a windchill as low as -2F. Windy. Winds from the North at 20 to 30 mph with gusts to 35 mph. Chance of snow 100% with accumulations up to 10 in. possible.

    Wednesday… Partly cloudy with a chance of snow. High of 18F with a windchill as low as -4F. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 30 mph. Chance of snow 30%.

    Wednesday Night… Partly cloudy. Low of 7F with a windchill as low as -2F. Winds from the NW at 10 to 15 mph.

Winter Storm Warning

Statement as of 4:52 am EST on January 21, 2014
… Winter Storm Warning remains in effect from noon today to 6 am
EST Wednesday…

* locations… Suffolk and New London counties.

* Hazard types… heavy snow and blowing snow.

* Accumulations… snow accumulation of 8 to 12 inches.

* Winds… north 20 to 30 mph with gusts up to 40 mph.

* Wind chills… as low as 5 below zero late tonight.

* Temperatures… highs in the mid 20s this morning… dropping
into the lower teens tonight.

* Visibilities… one quarter mile or less at times this afternoon
into tonight.

* Timing… snowfall will begin late this morning and will continue
through tonight… tapering off early Wednesday morning. The
heaviest snowfall will occur tonight.

* Impacts… falling… blowing… and drifting snow will cause
hazardous travel and walking conditions across the
area… impacting the late afternoon and evening commute. Snow
removal will be difficult this afternoon through tonight. Prolonged
exposure to frigid cold and low wind chills could cause frost
bite. Dress appropriately.

Precautionary/preparedness actions…

A Winter Storm Warning for heavy snow means severe winter weather
conditions are expected or occurring. Significant amounts of snow
are forecast that will make travel dangerous. Only travel in an
emergency. If you must travel… keep an extra flashlight… food…
and water in your vehicle in case of an emergency.

History of Hurricanes on Long Island

Hurricane season begins June 1st and extends through November. While the probability of our region being affected begins to heighten in August, the time is now to prepare yourself and your loved ones.

The Long Island Express (1938)

The Long Island Express hit Long Island on September 21, 1938 as a Category 3 with wind gusts of 125 mph devastating the coast of Long Island with storm surgesof 18 feet. The Long Island Express was responsible for, in total, 700 deaths, $308 million in damage, and 63,000 people homeless between Long Island and New England. The LI Express was so powerful that it created the Shinnecock Inlet and widened the Moriches Inlet in Suffolk County.


The Great Atlantic Hurricane (1944)

– Category 3 Hurricane (winds 111-130 mph).

Hurricane Hazel (1954)

– Category 3 Hurricane with wind gusts of 113 mph in Battery Park (highest winds ever recorded in NYC).


Hurricane Carol and Hurricane Edna (1954)

– Both were Category 3 Hurricanes.


Hurricane Donna (1960)

– started as a Category 4 Hurricane and hit Nassau County as a Category 2 with sustained winds of 100 mph


Hurricane Belle (1976)

– Category 1 Hurricane producing 6 inches of rain and tides 7.2 feet above normal.


Hurricane Gloria (1985)

– Began as a Category 3 hurricane when it hit Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, but was considered a Category 2 Hurricane when it reached Nassau County with wind gusts of 100 mph and 3.4 inches of rain. Gloria devastated the U.S., including serious damage to Nassau County.


Hurricane Irene (2011)

– Makes landfall as a Category 1 but immediately weakens to a Tropical Storm just after. Hurricane Irene’s anticipated strength caused Nassau County and neighboring counties to order evacuations. LIPA faced 400,000 power outages.