By Steven Brasley and Shea O’Meara
As the largest storm in recent decades geared up to slam into some of the most populated areas on the East Coast and then travel upstate last week, Ithaca’s emergency response personnel went into action.
Hurricane Sandy came ashore in Atlantic City, NJ with 85 mph winds and caused widespread flooding, winds, rains and power outages in Northern states. The Los Angeles Times recently reported a total of 110 deaths due to the storm, 48 in New York and 24 in New Jersey. Affected areas are now struggling to repair damages, bring power back to citizens who have been in the dark for the past week and deal with a massive fuel shortage that has left East Coast drivers waiting in gas lines for hours.
But in Ithaca, Sandy breezed by.
The Ithaca area was spared the brunt of the storm and the majority of the calls to the clerks office, which totaled about six, during the storm because of downed tree limbs from the winds, said Julie Holcomb, Ithaca city clerk.
The members of the clerks office spent time with the emergency response team in Ithaca to decide how to best deal with the storm, Holcomb said. These preparations included sitting in on meetings with the National Weather Service for the week preceding the storm, putting out news releases asking people to prepare for the storm and cleaning leaves out of city drains to avoid local flooding.
On Monday evening the city opened the Emergency Operations Center to help people in need, but reduced staff after 2 a.m. when they realized the city would not be hit badly by the storm.
“Our largest concern was high winds and downed power lines,” she said.
The city’s properties were not damaged by the storm.
C. Thomas Parsons, chief of the Ithaca Fire Department, said the department is constantly planning to respond to and be prepared for emergency situations.
“We’re really set up to operate in any disaster, man-made or natural,” he said. “The one thing that makes a disaster a true disaster is when the situation overwhelms the resources that you have.”
Rachel Thompson, a South Hill resident, said she stocked up on bottled water for the storm and was warned by her housing company to prepare her apartment for the winds expected from the storm.
“We got really lucky,” she said. “My family in New Jersey has been without constant power for a week.”