A tropical storm watch was downgraded to a flood watch for Long Beach and other South Shore areas as Hurricane Jose tracked up the East Coast earlier this week, and while forecasters said that the worst of the storm was expected to hit Wednesday, the city was largely spared from the storm’s impact.
City officials coordinated with the state and county, as well as PSEG and National Grid, in preparation for potentially heavy rain and possible flooding. Public works crews cleared storm drains and moved sand along the beach to close off and secure openings in between dunes and along the boardwalk. Aside from minor flooding at high tide — and perfect waves for surfing — officials and residents said Jose did not cause any damage.
“There were some streets that had minor flooding,” said Fire Commissioner Scott Kemins. “Luckily enough, we didn’t get much of that rain, which helped the situation.”
Five years after Hurricane Sandy, parts of the city are still in recovery mode, with numerous residents still rebuilding and elevating their homes. In the spring, the Army Corps of Engineers began work on a long-awaited coastal protection project on the beach — beginning with the rebuilding of jetties — that is ahead of schedule.
City Council Vice President Anthony Eramo said that while work on the jetties, or groins, completed to date may have provided some protection, the real test will come after the dunes are built beginning next year.
“Those groins are already working, but the storm surge protection will be the dunes, which we don’t have yet,” Eramo said. “Most of the folks I spoke to were not really worried, but we don’t have the luxury as a city to assume that these storms won’t hit us, so we have to do all the preparation that we have to do.”
Monday’s storm threat came on the same day that the city hosted a meeting with the Army Corps to discuss a study by the agency aimed in part at protecting the north side of the city, which suffered some of the worst damage in Sandy.
“Though we seem to have mostly dodged the worst of Tropical Storm Jose, it served as yet another reminder as to why the Army Corps came to City Hall this week to share information about their Back Bays Coastal Storm Risk Management Feasibility Study,” City Manager Jack Schnirman said in a statement. “We have aggressively advocated for comprehensive regional protection, and we wholeheartedly support this study. While we have made significant strides in Long Beach, we need a regional approach to resiliency, to ensure that not only Long Beach, and our barrier island, are protected — but the entire south shore of Long Island.”
Canals resident Kevin Reilly said that many residents tied down or brought outdoor furnishings inside, and secured outdoor construction materials. He added that while a number of residents parked their vehicles on bridges in the Canals, the neighborhood, which often floods during routine storms, was spared.
“Everyone heard that the storm was coming and they started to panic,” said Reilly, a co-founder of Long Beach Rising, a Facebook page that provides Sandy victims with information and resources. “We’ve done this before — it’s not a new drill for us. We know what we’re supposed to do. You need to have a plan, you need to know what to take with you; have gas in the car and a place to go.”
Jose comes at the height of a highly active hurricane season and during National Preparedness Month, during which the city is hosting a number of initiatives.
In addition to its meeting with the Army Corps, the city held an emergency- preparedness meeting on Sept. 14 with the Red Cross. It also urged residents to sign up for emergency alerts and a new community notification program at longbeachny.gov/lbready.
The city has also been posting preparedness tips on its social media pages, with the hashtag #LBReady, to update residents, and encouraging them to read its emergency preparedness newsletter and visit redcross.org, prepare.ny.gov/be-prepared and other sites for tips and information.
“The last few years since the storm, we’ve done a variety of preparedness-month events and tips, and we’re continuing and expanding upon that this year,” Schnirman said. “We’re going to really focus also on what residents can do to be prepared, and Harvey and Jose are stark reminders of how critically important it is to be ready.”
Liz Treston, president of the Long Beach Community Organizations Active in Disasters, an organization that works to address the unmet needs of residents in response to natural disasters, said that residents should not be complacent.
“Residents should follow reliable sources for their information, and not their neighbors’ Facebook page,” said Treston, who is still in the process of elevating her home.
She added that the sense of anxiety among residents during major storm threats is palpable. “Even though people have not been diagnosed by a doctor for [post traumatic stress disorder], many of our residents are experiencing symptoms of PTSD,” she said. “You have families who have used all of their finances to rebuild the home the way it is, and they’re anxious about anything that will take their only asset — which is now their house — away.”