3,000—That's the number of sandbags the Clarkstown Highway Department delivered around town in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy.
At the Nanuet Civic Association meeting last month, Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard gave a recap of the department's response during Hurricane Sandy.
On Oct. 23, the highway department started to prep for the storm. They checked more than 170 easement culverts and headwalls, hundreds of catch basins for surface debris that could inhibit the flow of water and over 3,000 sandbags were delivered around town, prior to and up to the beginning of the storm.
A Command Center of Operations was created in which Clarkstown Police and the Highway Department produced a shared internet document (through Google) to input current reportings and works-in-progress during the storm and the clean up efforts. This “live” document was viewed by multiple town departments as well as the O&R representative stationed at the police building command center. The report included data such as outages, downed poles/wires/transformers, downed trees and hanging limbs, fully and partially blocked streets and was updated 24/7. This document, as a management tool, enabled the best use of labor, equipment and materials for the opening of roads on a priority basis.
Even though the generator at the police station and town all had problems, the town still functioned with alternate plans.
The most heavily damaged areas were Valley Cottage and Congers.
“(Valley Cottage and Congers) were the worst in Clarkstown in terms of electrical infrastructure damages (pole, wires and transformer damage),” said Ballard. “Traversing the area was also problematic because it's an older part of the town and the roads are more narrow. Downed trees and utility poles on a narrow road can render a street impassible.”
The five Nanuet roads that were majorly affected by the storm included Duryea, Grandview, Highview, S. Edsall and Second Avenue.
Working with O&R
“O&R's coordination was not what it could have been; they viewed the Google document and reported issues to their headquarters, but we got very little feedback on the status of what we reported to them throughout their representation at the command center with regards to if they were en route, at the site or had cleared the wires and moved on,” said Ballard.
“From the beginning of the storm, O&R had assumed that Highway departments would use their bucket trucks for assistance clearing trees from around live wires,” he said. “Clarkstown, the County Highway and a few others had bucket trucks that are very useful for tree work, but are of minimal assistance around wires as the arms do not reach above and over wires, such as the type used by O&R’s tree crews. Furthermore, OSHA forbids any personnel from working around electrical wires without required specialized training, so the municipal bucket trucks became a non-option. At the onset of the storm, O&R’s assumption of the Highway bucket truck use caused a delay in the opening of closed streets.”
He added that what did work was O&R dedicating a line crew to work with the local highway departments, whereby they would de-energize the line and clear the wires, promptly allowing the highway crew work right behind them cutting up downed trees and clearing the roads.
Cleanup and FEMA
Claws attachments on front-end loaders are extremely productive in picking up yard waste over any other type of equipment. Large piles can be scooped up and placed in a 30-yard roll off container.
“We are using the claws to remove leaves and branches, however great efforts are being made to separate the leaves from the brush and trees when practical,” he said.
December 30 is the date when the department finished the first round of debris pick up, which will reflect the majority of the storm clean up.
"I've had discussions with FEMA for reimbursement. They're going to assist in the payment of OT and equipment use. This is also the first time they'll be paying for 30 days of straight time labor as well,” said Ballard. “The Highway Department is focused on returning normalcy to the residents of Clarkstown as soon as possible.”
The “biggest battle” Ballard had was “getting Germonds Park opened up as a staging area for brush and trees as we did last year, which is centrally located in Clarkstown so we don't lose truck time transporting debris to a facility located in the southern end of the Town. If we used Germonds Park, we'd expect everything ground up by the end of January.”
On Dec. 13, the town allowed them to use Germonds Park.
“From what I understand, the NYS DEC doesn't want leaves to be rotting, going into drains, creating a bacterium that goes into our streams and kills the fish. Another problem that they could bring up is that decomposing leaves emit heat and could cause a fire with the branches/debris that are mixed in with the leaf piles and is left for long periods of time. This should not be an issue as the storm debris is ground up as anticipated in the month of January.”
Ramapo has a drop off for landscapers and Clarkstown has it at Germonds.
“Highway can only remove storm debris, such as trees, branches and tree stumps (stumps must be less than 4’ in diameter and cleared of dirt and rocks). All debris brought to the curb or within the ten foot right-of-way will be picked up. Anything beyond ten feet is considered private property and the Town forces cannot work on private property,” he said.
During that civic meeting, Ballard also recapped Frank Sparaco's new position wiht the department.
- Ballard Recaps Sparaco's Highway Position
- Part II: Ballard on Sparaco's Highway Job