Written by Wendy Karpel Kreitzman Friday, 09 July 2010 00:00
The June 24 storm, the “micro-burst,” wrecked havoc in only about five minutes, but the massive clean-up seems endless and it will take years, if ever, to return the Old Village to its charming, tree-lined beauty. The devastation of homes and property has, in turn, devastated many in the community. Help came quickly in the aftermath of the storm, but at press time northern sections of Great Neck, particularly the Village of Great Neck, still looked like a war zone.
Village of Great Neck Mayor Ralph Kreitzman told the Great Neck Record that the Old Village sustained about 80 percent of the damage on the peninsula. “But fortunately, no one was seriously injured,” he said. Public officials and emergency workers generally agreed that the worst damage was in the Strathmore section of the village, particularly from the pond on Old Pond Road up the hill to Strathmore Road and on to William Penn Road. Large, two-story homes were buried in rubble and downed trees, cars were smashed, roofs blown off homes, and crashed trees cut in to beautiful old houses. The last of the homes to receive power included those in the Strathmore area, with power off until Monday evening, June 28.
Within minutes after the storm passed, local officials were out surveying the incredible damage, shocked, as villages, the Town of North Hempstead, and Nassau County quickly dispatched crews. By nightfall crews also arrived from upstate and from Massachusetts, with tree services and landscapers stepping in to help residents clear their property. Giant old trees were toppled and it took days and days to clear the huge logs and branches from the roads, not to mention the piles of downed trees on lawns.
Neighboring villages reached out too, with the Village of Mineola sending large crews several days in a row to help the efforts in the Old Village.
Last Wednesday, June 30, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman held a meeting to update local officials and emergency management officials who coordinated the cleanup effort in the wake of the storm. Supervisor Kaiman reported that “a consensus was reached that while the response was by and large successful, lessons were learned that would enhance response in a future crisis.”
“One thing we learned is that in a crisis, we can turn to our local fire department,” Supervisor Kamian said. “We used them for our command center,” he said, referring to the Vigilant fire house on Cuttermill Road. “We used them to help in the initial response immediately following the storm … overall, the response was very successful but clearly, there are areas we can improve upon,” he added.
In terms of improving the response to a future crisis, Supervisor Kaiman reported that a consensus was reached on the following:
The need for a list of contacts, including local government officials, fire department personnel, utility companies including Verizon and the Long Island Power Authority, the Long Island Rail Road and Department of Public Works, among others.
The creation of a protocol outlining tasks to implement in a future crisis.
The ability to maintain open lines of communication between all role-playing agencies and officials (possibly upgrading the town’s 311 system).
Establishing the process for damage assessment and reporting.
“Every agency and jurisdiction should have someone assigned to damage assessment,” Supervisor Kaiman pointed out, as he noted that “it’s crucial that accurate inventory is taken of each and every expense incurred in the clean up effort, which determines if the federal threshold for funding is met.”
And as Great Neck forged ahead with the mammoth clean-up, Supervisor Kaiman reviewed the status, offered more town services, and stated that it was so helpful that an IMA (inter-municipal agreement) between all nine villages and the town was already in place, under the auspices of the Great Neck Village Officials Association. With the IMA, the villages and the town were able to offer services and equipment to one another without restrictions. There are 14 municipal entities on the peninsula.
And this unbelievable clean-up will cost an unbelievable amount of money. At the meeting, there was much discussion on how to seek reimbursement for municipalities from the federal agency FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).
Mayor Kreitzman explained to the Record that, in order to apply for federal funds, there needs to be $25 million worth of damage state-wide from storm, along with $4.5 million in damages in the county.
Supervisor Kaiman plans to set up next the public officials’ update meeting when FEMA comes for an assessment. That is expected for Wednesday, July 7, and local officials will have the opportunity to meet with FEMA officials at that time.
So with tremendous efforts, long hours, and “with significant help from the town and from Mineola,” Mayor Kreitzman reports “terrific progress.” He said that “Amazingly, we hope to have completed most of the clean-up effort before the Fourth of July.”
In the Village of Great Neck, after working 36 hours, the department of public works crews have been working 13-hour-a-day shifts. Village Hall has extended hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Both the general offices and the building department offices are open with the extended hours.
As for the nature of this powerful storm, though Mayor Kreitzman reports that the National Weather Service came to his village right after the storm and termed it a “micro-burst,” many continue to claim that this was a tornado. A few shopkeepers along Middle Neck Road in the Old Village reported seeing a tornado, a funnel-shaped cloud. Village of Great Neck trustee Jeffrey Bass said that he, too, saw the funnel-shaped “tornado” cloud.
The Record would also welcome any of your storm survival stories.