Last-minute scramble to be ready for Sandy
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Congers resident Germaine Hoke has not forgotten lessons learned during Hurricane Irene, more than a year ago.
Hoke, 49, didn't expect to be without power for a full week after Irene washed out roads, toppled trees, and yanked down power lines.
This time around, she's taking no chances.
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As the first gusts of Hurricane Sandy whipped through leaf-laden branches Sunday, Hoke was out at the ShopRite in West Nyack, stocking up on canned goods, non-perishable foods and water. At her home, the bathtubs were already filled, candles and flashlights at the ready, the sandbags stacked in front of her basement.
"I figure whatever happens is going to happen," she said. "Expect the best, but prepare for the worst."
People all across the Hudson Valley spent Sunday following the experts' advice, completing last-minute preparations for a storm that meteorologists are billing as unprecedented.
"We know this is going to be a severe weather event," said Mike Donovan, spokesman for Orange and Rockland Utilities. "We don't know how severe, so rather than take your chances, take precautions."
At the Greater New York Red Cross, officials are deploying volunteers across the region, identifying sites for shelters if they become necessary and reminding residents to stay informed and be prepared:
• Residents need to be stocked up on water, Red Cross officials say, with at least one gallon per person per day. Fill bath tubs.
• Non-perishable foods enough to last several days - ideally canned goods - are a must, and don't forget a manual can opener, because the electric one won't be much good if the power goes out.
• Make sure pets have several days of food, as well.
• Fill gas tanks.
• Get batteries, if you can find them.
• And lastly, assemble important documents, such as proof of residence, insurance forms and emergency contacts, in a waterproof bag.
A new hurricane mobile app, launched by the Red Cross in July and available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play for Android devices, provides residents important check lists detailing what to do before, during and after the storm. It also provides current weather alerts, lists of active shelters and can even help people stay in touch with friends and family through social media.
With strong, damaging winds expected -- and the threat of downed trees and power lines that come with it -- utilities companies like Orange and Rockland are asking residents to make sure lawn furniture and kids' toys are secure.
"Every day things that you think aren't going to become problems actually become missiles," Donovan said. "Anything that can blow around, tie down. We've had lawn chairs fly into the wires and short them out."
Donovan suggested that a simple precaution like charging a phone can make a big difference in a pinch.
"The reliance we have on electricity is enormous," he said, "We don't even realize it."
At the Home Depot in the Palisades Center, Mike Wyman, 51, of Wesley Hills, was looking for a battery backup for his sump pump, but left empty handed. They were all sold out.
"We've never had anything like this coming," he said. "Two days is a lot of rain."
Hal Stone, 42, of Valley Cottage, lugged bags of cement to his car. He planned to build a barrier that would keep floodwaters away from his back door. It's something he was going to do anyway, but Hurricane Sandy forced him to expedite his plans.
"You can't control it," he said. "You have to deal with it."
Not everyone is worried. Diana Kmiec, 30, and Jamie Valandra, 32, of Nyack, got a few bottles of water, milk and sandwich meat -- some of the essentials, but they're not going overboard. They're not sure that anything more will be necessary.
"You never know until it gets here," she said.
At the ShopRite, rows of bare shelves that once held bottled water were evidence of rising anxiety.
"What's very satisfying for the Red Cross, we tell people to 'be Red Cross ready,'" said Abigail Adams, regional communications officer for the Red Cross. "We see our message resonating when we see lines out the door."