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Smithtown Officials: Sandy Does 'Double the Damage' of Irene

Town of Smithtown warns residents to expect cleanup to take weeks; says improved partnership with LIPA is key.

Smithtown officials are warning residents to be prepared for the long haul, as they expect cleanup from Hurricane Sandy to take weeks.

John Valentine, director of Smithtown's Emergency Management Unit, said based on early estimates Hurricane Sandy did almost double the damage of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

"There is no magic. This is going to be a long, protracted situation," Valentine said.

The hardest hit areas in the Town of Smithtown are the Nissequogue River corridor, and St. James sweeping down into Nesconset, according to Valentine. There are scattered pockets of hard hit neighborhoods, such as Sequoia Drive in Hauppauge. In addition, there are several buildings that have severe roof damage in the Hauppauge Industrial Park.

"Overall, the town was severely impacted by the storm," the emergency director said.

Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said Town Hall and other town facilities are among the 850,000 Long Island Power Authority customers still without power on Wednesday evening, being run on generators.

Vecchio said there was a 100 percent difference between Irene and Hurricane Sandy.

"There are a lot more trees that went down and a lot more roads are closed. Most people don’t have cell phone service or electricity. People are going to need help when its gets cold," the supervisor said.

While Vecchio could not provide an exact number, he said every member of the town's Highway Department, Parks Department and Public Safety department has been called into work to get cleanup underway.

Valentino laid out the town's goals in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"When you talk about storms, everyone speaks about electricity. We have the obligation of providing services to residents, like police and fire," he said.

To that point, Smithtown's number one priority is ensuring local residents' well-being, their safety and health. Second, their goal is make sure services, like fire and police, can get to residents by clearing the roadways of fallen trees and debris. Valentine said all Town of Smithtown roadways were accessible by Wednesday afternoon.

"When they [residents] say their street is blocked, it’s a stretch at this point. Their street might be blocked in a way that is inconvenient for them.... But no one now is in a situation where they can't get out," said the emergency director.

In addition, town employees are working in partnership with LIPA crews in effort to quickly restore power - unlike Tropical Storm Irene. Valetine said "it's a night and day difference."

"At that time we had no cooperation with LIPA. Through our efforts, we’ve been able to overcome that issue. We have partnered up with LIPA to get our goals accomplished," he said.

The emergency director explains LIPA crews are degenerating downed power lines to make sure they are not live. Then town employees are able to move in and remove the fallen tree or debris that caught and snagged on the power line. LIPA crews can then fix or replace the power line quicker.

This process explains why some homes and businesses with power may lose power again, before the system is fully restored.

Residents with questions, concerns or looking to report a problem are encouraged to call the Emergency Management Unit at 631-360-7553. The line is staffed 24 hours a day.

"If they call, we will get an answer to them. It may not be an answer they like, but we will get an answer for them," Valentine said.

The Town of Smithtown has also temporarily suspended garbage pick up due to the state of the roads with downed trees and traffic signals being out. The roads will be evaluated daily for whether to resume garbage pick-up services, with hopes of getting a run in by the end of the week.

pbug56 November 02, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Check out the Town of Huntington; just as bad. The town's response seems only to blame LIPA for not using town tree crews, which may be true, but the town doesn't seem to be using them either. The only way we got one street open is when a Nat Grid gas pipe crew used their trucks to open it.
Gjag2 November 02, 2012 at 12:21 PM
"When they [residents] say their street is blocked, it’s a stretch at this point. Their street might be blocked in a way that is inconvenient for them.... But no one now is in a situation where they can't get out," said the emergency director. I cannot believe this statement. Shame on u valentine. Is it a stretch to say the trees that have fallen on ledgewood in the pines that were still hanging across wires may inconvience some if they fall on someones head and kills them. Stop the bs. I'd rather no the truth so I can prepare myself and my family. I agree with RDA the false hopes r brutal and so unnecessary. But I'm sure that valentine has the power in his home up and running just fine. I understand its going to take time. I'm not an unreasonable person but when I read an article such as this one it makes my blood boil!
nw November 02, 2012 at 09:31 PM
WOW. You all have all the answers. If you have no gas, you can't drive trucks to the streets to fix the lights. If you have damaged power stations, there is no need to have trucks on the road. If you have a tree down on your street that the town missed, neighbors should cut it up so a car can pass. help don't bitch. We do need information on the progress being made, but the guys who know what they already did are onto the next issue and don't have time to tell you about the last one. Not everyone can be first and someone actually has to be last. We must all deal with it. Smithtown is much better off than the South Shore, Breezy Point, downtown NY, and the whole Jersey Shore. We have many broken but replaceable things, those areas need to be replaced entirely. Stop the bitchin and wait your turn Lipa needs to help other areas with much worse problems. Big deal you have a tree on your street, you still have a street!
CJ November 03, 2012 at 05:19 PM
@squaw - you're right, it is a huge mess. I have personally seen numerous town trucks out removing trees in Kings Park and Smithtown. Why shame on me? Because I am patient, and tired of hearing folks complain about their lack of creature comforts? It is a bad situation, that is for sure, but I am incredibly thankful that my home is still intact, and we did not suffer like Long Beach, Fire Island, Queens, New Jersey, and the other countless LOCAL neighborhoods that have been absolutely destroyed.
Serious?? November 08, 2012 at 11:43 PM
I am honestly trying to figure out the best way to word this one. It is 11/8 and at the moment we have yet to have our power restored. We have survived (and I use that term sarcastically) through the goodness of friends who have allowed us to use their showers and washing machines, as well as feed us. We are fortunate to not only have kind and wonderful friends, but we are fortunate to still have a structurally sound house with the daily potential of having what amounts to a convenience restored. We did not lose our home, nor did we lose a family member. I did not have my small children swept from my arms in flood waters. My children are learning a valuable lesson in perseverance during a difficult situation, and will be stronger for it one day. That said, I also have a son who in newly in remission from Stage 3 cancer. I have yet to call LIPA and play the "cancer card", because I am sure that there are people MUCH worse off than mine....and I hope that they get to them soon. Instead of pointing the finger at one another, maybe we should pull together as a community and focus on the less fortunate. While we may not have access to television, clearly we are all on the Internet and we see the suffering elsewhere on the Island. Seriously folks....stop already.

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