By John McLoughlin
Representatives from the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) spoke to locals about coastal evacuation plans for Rockaway and Broad Channel at the Wednesday, October 27 meeting of the 100 Precinct Community Council.
Michael Lee, an emergency management planner, led the group through a slide show presentation, saying Rockaway has a "large population at risk" during hurricanes, tropical storms and nor’easters.
Three means of egress for locals are the Gil Hodges bridge, Cross Bay bridge and through Nassau County. In the case of an evacuation, shelters include Brooklyn College for residents west of Beach 129 street, Aqueduct Race Track for resident from Beach 129 street to Beach 66 street and Broad Channel, and Belmont Race Trace for residents east of Beach 66 street.
In less severe instances, where an evacuation is not instituted, Far Rockaway High School and JHS 231 in Springfield Gardens would be opened as shelters.
Explaining that Rockaway’s "absence of protective dunes and wide beaches increases vulnerability," Lee said in a Level Four Hurricane, winds can be in excess of 155 miles per hour with water rising 20 to 30 feet above sea level.
Lee recommended that residents first seek shelter with family and friends, in places away from the storm surge. Officials expect to have to shelter approximately 224,000 people citywide if an evacuation is announced.
To assist traffic flow during an evacuation, New York State just approved a $19,000 grant for hurricane preparedness to OEM. Round, blue signs will be placed, stating "Coastal Evacuation Route." Lee expects the signs to be mounted on poles before the next hurricane season.
Lee further explained that an evacuation announcement would come at least 24-hours before the expected storm hits, with patients of nursing and adult homes and the two local hospitals going first.
Calvin Drayton, deputy director of OEM, said "there will be a point when no fire and police will be able to respond." He called the decision to evacuate one "of life and death."
Captain Gary Scirica, commander of the 100 Precinct, added to the discussion by saying "police will keep evacuation routes free and moving." Command posts will also be set up throughout the peninsula.
Residents were thankful that OEM came down to inform the public, with the best news of the night being that tolls will be waived in an evacuation.