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All Hands On Deck For North Hempstead During, After Sandy

Supervisor profiles towns’ storm solutions and preparedness

Long Island was hit in 2011 with a hurricane, dubbed Irene. One year later, her distant cousin, Sandy smacked the Northeast, wreaking havoc on parts of New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. The island dealt with high winds, downed trees and wires as well as floods that changed the face of the south shore.

The Town of North Hempstead, specifically the heavily wooded areas, had trees that were nearly 70 years old, ripped from their roots and plunged into homes and street corners. In a conference call with reporters, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman detailed municipal initiatives in place to help residents and updated certain areas of concern like road clearance and the Nor’easter that was expected to hit the area this week.

Kaiman held a conference call with the National Weather Service (NWS) on Monday, Nov. 5. NWS reps revealed the storm would hit the north shore of western Long Island.

“That was specifically mentioned in the call, and that is us,” Kaiman stated. “We need to be prepared for the Nor’easter that is coming with winds of 40, 50, 60 miles an hour.”

Kaiman estimated that more than 50,000 Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) customers in North Hempstead were still without power as of Nov. 4. He stated further that town tree-cutting crews continue to shadow utility electrical workers to expedite the removal of downed trees from utility wires. In addition, Kaiman said, “LIPA has informed the town that 272 linemen and 362 tree trimmers have been assigned to help the power restoration effort in our town.”

The town opened up three comfort stations for displaced residents at Michael J. Tully Park Pool, Harbor Links Golf Course and the ‘Yes we Can’ Community Center in Westbury.

“Those three locations have showers, they’re large facilities and they’re all online,” Kaiman stated. “They all have power.”

North Hempstead received more than 20,000 calls to its 311-call center because of Hurricane Sandy. Kaiman rode out the storm in the command center at ‘Yes we Can.’

“The immediate goal was to clear roads and deal with public safety issues,” said Kaiman. “The chief concern amongst everyone of course is power. Unfortunately, that is something we have the least control over.”

The town is not authorized to detach fallen trees from power lines without having LIPA determine the wires are dead. LIPA representatives were stationed at the command center to attain information, stats, etc. from town reps.

“From the very beginning of the storm, LIPA agreed to have our tree crews shadow LIPA trucks and assist in cutting down trees and branches along with electrical workers who de-energize the line,” said Kaiman.

LIPA did not return calls seeking comment on this story.

The storm pummeled the Northeast just in time for Election Day and many were worried that people would find it hard get out and vote. Kaiman noted that the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) would supply generators to polling places without power.

“We set up a team at the county’s request to handle election preparation coming out of our command center,” Kaiman said. “They gave us lists of every polling place. We are pretty confident that every polling place in the Town of North Hempstead will be open, ready for voting.”

Kaiman noted that many communities were hit hard by the storm in North Hempstead and that every area has “a pocket of damage.”

“The Roslyn area, it has been out. It’s just dark,” Kaiman said.