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Hochul says state is preparing for hurricane season

 NY Governor Kathy Hochul
New York NOW
NY Governor Kathy Hochul

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has met with the heads of the major downstate utilities in preparation for the upcoming hurricane season, saying she wants to make sure everyone is as prepared as possible for potential extreme weather.

Hochul spoke Friday on Long Island, 10 years after Superstorm Sandy, a monster hurricane that killed 233 people in the U.S. and the Caribbean, including 53 New Yorkers.

There have been numerous damaging storms since then, including Hurricane Ida, which hit New York City just days after Hochul took office last August. Record amounts of rainfall flooded basement apartments and killed 17 New Yorkers.

“People literally had to break windows to try and escape the rising water in their homes,” Hochul said. “It was terrifying.”

The storms have not been confined to downstate. In 2011, Hurricanes Irene and Tropical Storm Lee devastated sections of upstate New York.

Water levels in Lake Ontario have risen sharply over the past decade, and there have been record-breaking floods.

The governor met with the heads of local utilities, including PSEG and the Long Island Power Authority. The utilities were criticized after Superstorm Sandy for not being prepared for the devastation and for being slow to restore power to the over 2 million homes that were affected.

Hochul said the utilities have installed better computer systems and conducted training sessions for staff. She said they've fortified switches and buried or raised up power lines. But under questioning from reporters, Hochul did not express complete confidence in the utilities.

“I live with concerns,” Hochul said. “That is the nature of being governor.”

Hochul says she hopes voters approve a $4.2 billion environmental bond act on November’s ballot. It would provide funding for flood risk reduction and restoration of flooded areas, and provide money to build more storm-resilient infrastructure as well as greener buildings to avert more global warming.

“We are the first generation to truly feel the effects of climate change,” Hochul said. “And we are the last generation to (have a chance to) do anything about it.”

So far this year, no major hurricanes have been predicted. In fact, the region is suffering from another form of extreme weather – a lack of rain. Hochul spoke in Suffolk County, where the South Shore of Long Island is under a severe drought warning.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.