Westchester Lessons Learned One Year After Irene

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Residents and members of the Westchester County Long-Term Recovery Coalition spoke Saturday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck about the impact of Hurricane Irene.
Residents and members of the Westchester County Long-Term Recovery Coalition spoke Saturday at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck about the impact of Hurricane Irene. Photo Credit: Greg Maker

MAMARONECK, N.Y. – Members of the Westchester County Long-Term Recovery Coalition (WCLRC) came together Saturday to address what has been done in the county since Hurricane Irene struck one year ago.

Westchester residents and members of the WCLRC gathered at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Mamaroneck for a forum titled “Learning From Irene: Coping in the Face of a Natural Disaster.”

Pat Anderson, emergency management director for WCLRC member group United Way’s Hudson Valley Region, said that when Hurricane Irene struck last August, the service her group provides went to 24/7, as opposed to its regular 9 a.m.-7 p.m. workday.

“We had 6,000 calls in four days for nonemergency services,” Anderson said. “By the third day, people were asking us where they could pick up dry ice. Westchester County Emergency Management was ready 72 hours in advance. Most of the calls we got were from people asking if they could use the roads.”

Mariana Duenas, case manager at Catholic Charities in Port Chester, also a member organization of the WCLRC, said she was amazed at how unprepared people were. She said her concern was for minorities who faced a language barrier while trying to get help.

“We were just thinking, how we can serve this population?” Duenas said. “A lot are afraid to come forward because of their legal status. Over the past year, we have been trying to lead them to the right agencies, where they could get help.”

One of those agencies, Project Hope, another member of the WCLRC, helped people referred by Duenas. Project Hope Team Leader Dan Mancini said the hurricane caused pockets of devastation, noting that Mamaroneck and Rye were pounded, while White Plains was mostly untouched.

“It’s all about learning what we did not know last year,” Mancini said. “What happened to people affected their future. Everyone wants to be whole again, and they might be fine physically or financially, but a lot of people needed time to put themselves back together.”

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