POUND RIDGE, N.Y. – Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene’s arrival in northern Westchester County, where it downed trees and power lines, causing widespread power outages that, in some cases, lasted for nearly a week.
In Pound Ridge, more than 2,200 homes and businesses lost power. When officials look back on the storm, they point to the town’s cadre of volunteers as the reason the community endured Irene’s devastation.
“I know I’ve said it before, but I will say it again: We are blessed with a high level of volunteerism in Pound Ridge,” said Supervisor Gary Warshauer. “That storm really showed how great it is. The Fire Department, the Ambulance Corps, the Office of Emergency Management – these men and women were out there 24/7 in the storm, and Pound Ridge residents need to be thankful for their dedication.”
Warshauer said that homes cut off by fallen trees were visited by volunteers on all-terrain vehicles.
“We maintain a network of those who have special needs, and those were the first ones we checked on,” he said.
Fortunately, officials say, the storm had no long-term impact on the town, other than maybe some bad memories.
“We took some lessons from it, though,” said Jim Perry, director of the Pound Ridge Office of Emergency Management. “One of those is that if you live in this area, you better have a generator. After the storm, we had a run on generator sales – around 250 permits were issued to install them.”
One challenge that town officials realized they faced in the wake of Irene was to find better ways to communicate with residents during blackouts.
“Our main form of communication had been our website, but we lost that, and we never really anticipated what we would do if that happened,” Perry said. “Now, we’ve made arrangements with an offsite website that will keep going should we lose ours and will be able to disseminate information, like where people can get dry ice, bottled water, and give power restoration updates.”
Perry noted that the town had done away with using radio stations to communicate information to residents, but the hurricane made officials rethink that decision.
“We have gone back to posting announcements with local radio stations,” he said.
Irene also inspired the town to set up a Twitter account as another way to reach out to citizens seeking information.
Warshauer said Irene had no lasting financial impact on the town budget and most of the cost – such as Highway Department overtime – was picked up by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We have budget issues, but it’s not from the storm,” he said. “I think for the most part that all the storm-related problems have been handled. NYSEG is very proactive now with its tree trimming and replacing old, worn-out electric poles.”