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October 30, 2012

Agencies cooperate to avert disaster

By Richard Whitby
The Daily Star

---- — State and local officials briefed the media late Monday morning about storm preparations in Schoharie County and elsewhere in the state.

The briefing, held at the Blenheim-Gilboa Visitors Center in North Blenhiem, brought together officials from the New York Power Authority, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection and emergency management officials from Schoharie County.

All of the agencies have been cooperating to reduce the effects of Superstorm Sandy, said Gil C. Quinones, president and chief executive of NYPA.

In the case of NYPA and the New York City’s DEP, that meant drawing down reservoirs to make room for flood waters.

Lynn Hait, NYPA’s regional manager for the central region, said the authority had done all it could at Blenheim-Gilboa.

“Primarily, the two reservoirs are configured such that the lower reservoir is at 860 feet, the minimum operating level, and our upper reservoir is full. The lower reservoir is just slightly lower than it was a year ago, before Irene. … The upper reservoir is full because of concerns by the New York ISO for bulk electric system stability.”

Jim Tierney, assistant commissioner for water and watershed for the state DEC, cautioned that Schoharie County streams had not recovered from devastating flooding produced by Hurricane Irene 14 months ago.

“They don’t store water the way they should,” he said.

He added that 500 million gallons per day was being released from Schoharie Reservoir, while cautioning that such steps could “mitigate,” but not prevent flooding.

Other responses to the storm:

Delaware County roads close

Delaware County Chairman James E. Eisel Sr. declared a state of emergency for the county, closing all roads from 8 p.m. Monday to at least 6 a.m. today, at which time the declaration will be re-evaluated. Eisel cited predictions for overnight wind gusts as high as 70 mph and the danger created by fallen power lines as reasons for declaring the emergency.

Chenango emergency

A state of emergency was declared in Chenango County, with all roads in the county scheduled to close at 9 p.m. Monday. The road closing will be re-evaluated at 6 a.m. today, according to a media release from the county Bureau of Fire and Emergency Management.

Otsego monitoring weather

The Otsego County Office of Emergency Services was monitoring the weather and keeping municipalities apprised of conditions via email, Coordinator Kevin Ritton said about 4 p.m. Monday. The office participated in conference calls Monday with the National Weather Service and the state emergency services officials, he said.

Oneonta shelter

The Otsego County Office of Emergency Services opened a shelter at St. Mary’s Church annex building on Walnut Street in Oneonta at 7 p.m. Monday.

No Oneonta buses

Oneonta Public Transit parked its buses at 7 p.m. Monday, with operations scheduled to resume at noon today, city officials said.

Red Cross prepares

The Mohawk Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross said it had shelters on standby for residents of Oneida, Herkimer and Otsego counties and is mobilizing volunteers, relief supplies and disaster vehicles. It is working with county emergency management officials.

Farmer advice

Cornell Cooperative Extension urged farmers to prepare for power outages, structural or crop damage, insurance claims and damage that could accompany Sandy. It reminded farmers that photos of agricultural losses are very helpful to the U.S. Agriculture Department, especially with their livestock indemnity programs. Farmers and homeowners also should store all business records above flood level, which is generally at least 2 feet off the floor, the service said in a press release.