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Lewisboro Looks Back On Hurricane Irene One Year Later

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Irene’s arrival in northern Westchester County, where it downed trees and power lines, causing widespread power outages that, in some cases, lasted for nearly a week.

In Lewisboro, more than 5,200 homes and businesses lost power.

While the lingering effects of the storm aren’t dire, they’re still being felt.

“There are still plenty of trees down in the woods, but we won’t deal with them. That’s up to each property owner,” said Highway Superintendent Peter Ripperger. “But we are still clearing drain ditches from the storm. We are looking at the ones that gave us problems and are trying to stay ahead. The drainage pipes were a problem, and we’ve repaired them, but other than that there’s not much more we can do.”

The town received about $85,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help with its cleanup efforts, and all the money was used by the Highway Department to pay for its overtime.

Ripperger said the hurricane, followed closely by the Halloween weekend nor'easter, provided a one-two punch the likes of which he had never seen during his tenure as a highway chief.

“We had one three years ago that was pretty bad, but this happened so fast, and there was so much cleanup we couldn’t get to by the time the snowstorm came in October,” Ripperger said.

Town Supervisor Peter Parsons said there are “plenty of signs still around” to remind residents of Irene’s devastation, though he acknowledged that it’s impossible to tell which trees were knocked by the hurricane and which by the snowstorm.

“The FEMA money helped a lot and took care of most of our out-of-pocket expenses,” Parsons said. “Unfortunately, there was no FEMA money for the snowstorm, because that was a more localized event.”

Parsons said the lesson learned from the storms is that the town needs to find a way to communicate better with its residents and update them with information such as where dry ice and bottled water are available, and provide regular updates on power restoration schedules.

He said the town has established plans to post information in real time on its website and has provided information in its Parks and Recreation brochure. However, he admits, during power and phone outages, there is not a lot of recourse for the town.

To try to remedy that, the Town Board recently amended the local sign ordinance to allow the fire stations in South Salem, Goldens Bridge and Vista, as well as the Volunteer Ambulance Corps in Cross River, to place electronic LED signs on their front lawns that will broadcast emergency information to passers-by. The firehouses and ambulance headquarters have generators, so they’ll be able to keep the signs operational during blackouts.

“Also, part of any plan we have is have Parks and Rec check on every senior citizen who is registered. That’s the message we need to get out, is that seniors need to register with us,” Parsons said. “Everyone needs to think about [power outages from storms] and how it might affect them, and then plan accordingly.”

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