New York Gov. George Pataki has declared a State Disaster Emergency for four counties – Erie, Essex, Warren and Wyoming — and contiguous areas that suffered damages in a series of devastating storms spawned from the current weather pattern that has hit the State since June 6.
“I have ordered state agencies to provide any and all assistance to counties and localities impacted by this seemingly never-ending series of storms,” Gov. Pataki said. “These storms have caused widespread damage and destruction to public roads and bridges and cut electric power to tens of thousands of New Yorkers.
“We are doing everything possible to help local governments through this tough weather pattern. Just when we thought the worst had passed, another series of storms yesterday began battering areas that were hit hard just last week,” the Governor added.
On June 6, the Governor directed the implementation of the State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and activated the State Emergency Coordination Center to expedite State personnel and equipment.
The Governor authorized the State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) to coordinate the appropriate State agencies in assisting local governments in taking appropriate action to protect property and to assist those affected local governments and individuals in responding to and recovering from these storms. Governor Pataki has designated James Tuffey, director of SEMO, as the state coordinating officer.
Since June 6 severe thunderstorms, damaging winds and hail has been prevalent throughout the state. During this timeframe, the eastern United States had been dominated by an upper-air high pressure ridge, with New York State residing on the northern periphery which made it more likely to experience severe weather and thunderstorms. Throughout the period, severe weather had occurred throughout the state ranging and traveling from west to east.
Senator Betty Little added, “The damage I’ve seen while touring areas in Warren and Essex County over the past few days has been incredible. This destructive force of nature, however, has been surpassed by the will and determination of paid and non-paid emergency personnel whose efforts to safeguard life and property has been amazing. Governor Pataki has spent a lot time surveying the damage and talking with elected officials and emergency personnel. His announcement of a state of emergency is a critically important step in the process of ensuring that our local governments receive the assistance we expect to be made available through the federal government.”
The first series of storms in this stalled weather system began June 6 and swept through the State cutting power to tens of thousands from the Southern Tier to the Capital Region and lower Adirondacks. On June 9, storms battered Erie and Wyoming counties in the west and targeted Essex County, crippling the transportation network in those areas.
Rainfall amounts produced by these storms approached or exceeded record levels in certain locations. Between 6-10 inches of rain fell in only a matter of several hours on northern Warren County on Monday night. The rains washed out sections of the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate Route 87, commonly referred to as the Northway, forcing closure of that major transportation route for nearly a 16-mile stretch. Numerous local roads were washed out or damaged as well and residents were forced to seek safety in a Town of Bolton shelter overnight.
The transportation networks in the impacted counties were severely crippled and response personnel from the State Police and the Department of Transportation (DOT) worked in unison with local responders in effecting evacuations, road closures, and conducting traffic control to keep people out of harm’s way. The State Police Aviation Unit also provided support by conducting aerial reconnaissance as part of the damage assessment and recovery process.
SEMO also provided a multi-agency Incident Management Assistance Team to support and coordinate local response and recovery efforts in Warren County and provided a 5,500-gallon water tanker to the Town of Bolton there.
The Public Service Commission has worked closely with utilities to ensure safe and rapid restoration of power to the impacted areas and the Office of Fire Prevention and Control assisted fire departments who responded under the state’s mutual aid plan.
The Departments of Health and Environmental Conservation provided assistance to local governments on health and environmental issues and the Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure Coordination provided support at the State Emergency Coordination Center.
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