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Local News

April 22, 2013

Floods focus of local disaster planning

Area officials say communication key to success

“All emergencies are local in nature,” says Kevin Neary, Schoharie County’s acting emergency coordinator, echoing a quotation about politics made famous by the late House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill.

“They start and end with local communities, so therefore, our philosophy, here in the county, is to develop an ability for communities to create their own plan and procedures on how they’ll respond in any given emergency situation,” Neary said last week. “It doesn’t have to be a flood.”

Nevertheless, flooding is the biggest natural threat for Schoharie, which was devastated by the deluge that tore through towns along Schoharie Creek after Hurricane Irene at the end of August 2011. Flooding also is the most imposing natural threat facing Otsego, Delaware and Chenango counties, all which were affected in some way by Irene, or Tropical Storm Lee two weeks later.

POST-STORM PLANNING CONTINUES

A year and a half later, the required “after-action” discussions and reports are completed, but the efforts to minimize nature’s wrath continue.

Schoharie hired a consultant, who produced a 92-page report last summer.

“They came up with nine major recommendations,” Neary said.

At the report’s heart were communications in several manifestations, ranging from working with the National Weather Service to improve rainfall reporting from the headwaters of Schoharie Creek to better coordination with the New York Power Authority and the New York City Department of Environmental Protection to mitigate downstream flooding from the Blenheim-Gilboa power project. The progress in this area was on display in the run-up to Hurricane Sandy last fall, when the reservoirs were drawn down in advance of the storm.

“We were in constant contact both with DEP and with the power authority,” said Neary, who also is mayor of Richmondville.

But it’s on the local level where the county is still doing much of its work.

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