HAWTHORNE, N.Y. - As County Executive Robert Astorino and Westchester commissioners involved with coordinating the county’s tropical storm cleanup continued monitoring flooding and roadways Sunday evening, others in the emergency operating center began assessing whether Westchester will be eligible for federal disaster relief funds.
"It’s premature to know how much damage has been done. We have inspectors out in the field throughout Westchester County. We will be compiling all that data over the week, and if we meet the threshold of $3 million, we would definitely apply,” said Astorino. “We do assume that we will reach that threshold.”
After touring the county and surveying damage from a helicopter, Astorino said he was “pleasantly surprised” that some swaths remained relatively unharmed and that no deaths or serious injuries had been reported. The county executive also attributed the lack of car accidents to Westchester’s decision to preemptively shut several parkways.
"That effectively kept a lot of people -- almost everybody -- off the roads. And as such, we had no accidents to report. We had no rescues. We had not injuries. We had very few disabled vehicles or abandoned vehicles,” said Astorino.
However, the county noted that many in Yonkers neighborhood near the Saw Mill River, Sound Shore communities, and the Babbitt Court area in Elmsford endured severe flooding. Approximately 75,000 Westchester residents were without power as of 6 p.m. Sunday, according to Astorino, who pledged to spur Consolidated Edison into restoring power faster than its initial goal of within five days.
During Irene’s peak, nearly 400 residents took refuge in 17-county run shelters. Those numbers have dwindled as electricity is restored.
Astorino said that based on past storms, roads such as the Bronx River Parkway, parts of the Saw Mill Parkway, and Hutchinson River Parkway segments will likely remain closed for at least a day.
Westchester shut down the Catskills Aqueduct after discovering high turbidity levels. Alternative water sources are being routed to taps of those affected in Tarrytown, Sleepy Hollow and Mount Pleasant. The county is also monitoring a broken water main in Briarcliff Manor.
Elmsford was hit the hardest, according to Astorino, who said he was frustrated that Westchester and Greenburgh had not been granted permission from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin taking preventative measures on behalf of Babbitt Court residents who frequently endure flooding.
“Their response was that they’ve been studying this since 1950. And I asked them at what point, at what decade, do we actually go from studying it to trying to fix the problem,” said Astorino. “It’s very, very, frustrating to me as county executive and it’s very frustrating to local officials who want to be able to go in and fix this problem.”
The county government is encouraging residents to remain at home, if possible, until downed power line, fallen trees, and flooded roads are cleaned up. Astorino also suggested that people with non-life threatening conditions call 2-1-1 for help because the Bedford and Mount Kisco 9-1-1 lines were shut down Sunday due to an influx of calls, which were immediately routed to county police.
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