The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Bedford slowly recovers after freak storm



J. CHRISTOPHER AUFFANT PHOTO

This Orchard Lane home in Katonah sustained damage from Saturday’s storm.

 
By JOHN ROCHE

The snowy nor’easter on Oct. 29 and Tropical Storm Irene that tore through the region this summer were very different storms, but the widespread power outages, downed trees and wires, lingering road closures and other impacts were all too familiar for many Bedford residents, with some homes in town still without electricity or heat as of Thursday morning.

The colorful foliage of autumn was replaced by blanketing snow from the Halloween weekend storm, and the weight of the wet snow on trees still brimming with leaves resulted in a massive number of fallen trees and tree limbs, along with an abundance of utility wires.

“Because of its impact and the fact that it occurred so early in the season, the October snowstorm is certainly unprecedented,” Supervisor Lee Roberts said this week.

As of Wednesday, Consolidated Edison was reporting that 13,995 of its customers in Westchester remained without power. At midweek, New York State Electric and Gas, or NYSEG, reported that more than 12,000 of its customers in northern Westchester had yet to have power restored five days after the storm hit.

Representatives for both utility companies said they were hopeful that all homes would again have electricity by Thursday or Friday, but some Bedford residents — many who went without power for up to five days in the wake of Irene in August — expressed frustration about the pace of repairs.

“It’s a double whammy, since myself and many of my neighbors still haven’t gotten over the days-long power outages after the tropical storm this summer,” said Lidia Williamson, a Katonah resident and a NYSEG customer. “Two freak storms in just about two months is a little too much to take. We were out for four days in August, but I’m hoping to get power back quicker than that this week.” 

For some town residents, the lack of information from NYSEG immediately after the snowstorm last Saturday was as frustrating as the power outages themselves.

“I understand that you can’t have these many trees and wires down and just get power turned back on everywhere in a day or so, but every utility company should have a communications plan put into effect, and I don’t see where NYSEG did,” Katonah resident Lloyd Trufelman said.

Mr. Trufelman, who was among the hundreds of residents using the Katonah Village Library for electricity, warmth and Wi-Fi on Monday, said that while other entities the public relies on had been updating customers through their websites, by having their spokespeople on the radio or television or customer service phone lines, “that hasn’t been the case in my experience with NYSEG” following the storm.

“I’m in public relations, and NYSEG’s lack of communication in the wake of this storm seems either flat-out incompetence or complete contempt for their customers,” Mr. Trufelman said. “Their proactive communication has been absolutely disgraceful, especially when you compare it to other utility companies or organizations like Metro-North who are dealing with the same type of service interruptions and outages.”

On Tuesday, Clayton Ellis, a corporate communications manager for NYSEG, said crews were working around the clock to restore power to affected homes, and trying to keep customers updated through the company’s website, which relies on input from field and office personnel as well as outages reported by customers either via the website or by telephone.

“In a major storm emergency such as this one when there is considerable tree-related damage to power lines and equipment, it is not unusual for field personnel to restore power to a main circuit and not realize there may still be isolated sections of the circuit that are not in service or individual services fed by the circuit that are not in service,” Mr. Ellis said.

“Our customers should also realize that even once our damage assessment work is complete and we begin to estimate restoration times, we may experience additional power interruptions as a result of new storm-related damage or system problems that were not apparent earlier,” the NYSEG representative said. “These circumstances help explain why the number of services interrupted sometimes increases during the power restoration process and why estimated restoration times may change.”

The storm, the most significant October snowstorm in New York history, prompted town officials to open the Community House in Bedford Hills as a shelter and warming center from Saturday night through Monday evening. 

More than 100 people made use of the shelter, with about a dozen spending the night on cots on Oct. 29 and Oct. 30.

For lifelong Bedford Hills resident Joseph Nicoletti, the shelter at the Community House was “a lifesaver,” as the 83-year-old described it, since his home had no electricity, heat or telephone since Saturday night. “I don’t know what I’d do if I couldn’t come here to keep warm,” Mr. Nicoletti said on Monday afternoon. “It was just too cold for me to stay in my house. I mean, the company is nice, the hot coffee and food are good, but what I’m really here for is the heat. I could make do without the other stuff for a few days, but I couldn’t do without heat.”

Late Saturday night, with about 40 residents already weathering the storm at the Community House, MTA officials reached out to Bedford officials for assistance.

“There was a northbound train with about 100 passengers stranded on the tracks because of the storm,” said Bedford’s superintendent of recreation and parks Bill Heidepriem, who oversaw operations at the temporary shelter.

While Mr. Heidepriem said that the stranded passengers were welcomed at the town’s shelter, there were concerns about how they could get from the Bedford Hills train station to the facility up the hill on Main Street, given the ice, snow, downed trees, wires and darkness.

“The Bedford police stepped in and the Bedford Hills Fire Department used two of its trucks to flood the street with lights,” Mr. Heidepriem said. “It looked like daytime.”

About 60 passengers made the trek up the brightly lit street from the train, and Metro-North officials ordered 100 meals from the Bedford Hills Diner, which were picked up by the fire department and brought to the shelter.”

Mr. Heidepriem had high praise for the town personnel and volunteers who helped those using the shelter, including more than a dozen seniors from Fellowship Hall in Bedford Hills who gathered at the Community House on Monday.

That morning, Gwen Brant, the owner of Daisy Hill Farm, sent a donation of baked goods and fresh produce. The Bedford Hills Neighborhood Association donated $100 to pay for coffee and other provisions for those visiting the town’s temporary shelter.

He commended the work of volunteers from Bedford’s Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, who assisted throughout the operation of the shelter. “Our CERT team and other volunteers really stepped up in this time of need,” Mr. Heidepriem said.

At the Town House, Bedford officials provided bottled water and dry ice for residents, as well as the opportunity to charge cellphones or laptops in the wake of the storm.

At Tuesday’s town board meeting, Ms. Roberts publicly thanked town personnel from the Department of Public Works, Recreation and Parks, Buildings, police and other departments, the CERT team and the three volunteer fire departments for their ongoing response to the storm and its impacts.  

“It’s been an amazing effort on our town’s part,” Ms. Roberts said.

Bedford Hills resident Lisa Schwartz, however, said she found the town’s response to the storm lacking, and questioned why it took so long for major thoroughfares such as Harris or Bedford Center roads to be plowed and cleared of fallen trees.

DPW Commissioner Kevin Winn said that the efforts of town personnel to plow and clear trees from Bedford’s roads were stymied because power companies must first notify the DPW if downed wires are live or not. “Although the power is out in an area, we can’t be sure that the power in those downed lines is completely off, and all it takes is one mistake for someone to get electrocuted,” Mr. Winn said. “We’ve made extensive efforts reaching out to NYSEG and Con Ed, and about 90 percent of our problems involve NYSEG, just because they service more of our area. We’ve had some cooperation, but they are definitely focused on restoration rather than teaming with us in terms of getting trees cleared. And we don’t have control over how or where NYSEG responds.”

In addition to voicing concerns about the delay in getting major roads cleared, possibly preventing access for emergency responders, Ms. Schwartz said the town’s DPW and police should be doing a much better job in marking downed trees on roadsides or other driving hazards during and immediately after storms. Mr. Winn agreed that the town could do better in flagging downed trees or roadside debris.

Ms. Schwartz also complained about the unsafe conditions created when traffic signals remain inoperable after a storm, and pointed to an accident at the intersection of Route 35 and Route 22 that occurred just before Tuesday’s meeting.

“This is a safety hazard like I’ve never seen,” she said.

Ms. Roberts and Deputy Supervisor Peter Chryssos said that the town shares her concern about the safety issues created when traffic signals go out, including along the Bedford stretch of Route 35, which is already a safety concern.

The supervisor said that since the power first went out, she has been on the phone with the state DOT and elected officials at the county and state level, pushing for the traffic signals to be made a top priority.

“We ourselves don’t have the police manpower to man those state roads because of the huge call volume our officers are responding to,” Ms. Roberts said. “It’s definitely a dangerous situation, but it’s a state road, and the state has not seen fit to prioritize it.”

Ms. Schwartz said Bedford residents should be alerted to the state’s failure to address the potentially life-threatening situation and respond as a community. “There are all kinds of ways to put pressure on Albany,” she said.

Because of the storm, the town also extended the date for late payment of school taxes with a 2 percent surcharge from Nov. 1 to Nov. 15.



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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Perks – 197 Katonah Avenue    

  4. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center;
    294 Katonah Avenue   

  5. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center;
    280 Katonah Avenue    

  6. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

  2. Connie’s at Northern Westchester Hospital
    400 E. Main Street    


South Salem/Vista

  1. JNR Pharmacy – 222 Oakridge Commons;
    Route 123   


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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November 4, 2011