Written by Pat Grace Friday, 09 July 2010 00:00
Heavy windstorms hit the Town of North Hempstead hard on June 24. Winds close to 75 miles per hour especially devastated Great Neck Village, leaving hundreds of homes without power and with downed trees limiting access to homes, vehicles, driveways and roadways. The extensive number of fallen trees further limited the ability of public works crews and LIPA service crews to restore services to homeowners, again, predominately in the Great Neck area.
The powerful storm caused many residents to focus on town, and, more locally, village procedures for removing downed trees and fallen limbs.
Tree Removal Procedure provided by the Town of North Hempstead:
“If a tree on town property OR if a tree on a homeowner’s (private) property falls into the roadway, the town will respond by clearing the right of way, removing all fallen tree related debris and transport it back to the town’s Solid Waste Management Authority. The Town of North Hempstead, however, will not haul fallen trees back to the transfer station if a homeowner’s tree falls on their own private property. In that scenario, the resident is responsible for the tree removal.
“In the recent storm scenario, the Town of North Hempstead had to clear the right of way at hundreds of locations throughout the town and the Great Neck peninsula which necessitated leaving some debris on the homeowners sidewalk for the first few days after the storm so that we could respond to clearing other roadways. And, over 800 tons of storm-related debris has been removed due to the recent storm that struck the Great Neck peninsula and other areas throughout the town. We expect that number to continue to increase as we are still working to clear streets in the Village of Great Neck.”
Problems faced in Manhasset villages:
In Plandome, Village Clerk Tim Rice explained that no village trees were downed. Some branches blocked the road, most notably in front of the Reconstructionist Synagogue on Plandome Road, and on North and South Drives in Plandome. “Trees that block the road not on village property,” Rice said, “are removed from the road by the village and placed on the homeowner’s property.” In Plandome all but three roads are village roads—Shore Drive, Bayside Drive and East Drive.
The town has a 50-foot easement and in a perfect world the road falls in the middle of the easement covering 20 to 22 feet of the expanse leaving, again, in a perfect world, 14 feet on each side. But as Rice said, it is never a perfect world so he suggests residents measure out from their house and where their property line ends the village begins. Rice himself stopped on Plandome Road to call and inform someone it was impassible only to have a tree branch fall on his two-month-old car causing extensive damage.
The Village of Flower Hill sustained very little damage, two trees, a small evergreen and another, not in the best condition, fell.
The Village of Plandome Heights had no structural damage but did sustain damage, although problems on village property stemmed mostly from tree limbs. The village does not have their own trucks, rather, contracts out with a private contractor.
Munsey Park Village has their own trucks and crew but relies on the opinion of an arborist, Frank Hefferin, when a village tree is involved. In a storm like the one that hit Thursday, June 24, any individual with a downed tree must follow an established procedure before work can be completed. The homeowner must call the village office for a tree permit; three on the committee visit the home to inspect the tree and give permission for work to be completed. Two such cases resulted from the storm, one a no-brainer, as the tree was resting on the garage. Additionally, during the storm a tree fell onto Park Avenue and took down electrical wires. LIPA was called to repair the wires and they also cut up the tree and placed it on the homeowner’s property for removal.
North Hills had little damage from the late June storm. The village does not have its own public works department, therefore it uses a private contractor.
In Plandome Manor Mayor Barbara Donno declared that the Plandome Park area had empty property that suffered significant tree loss as well as some trees that took out electrical power to the residents. One tree blocked Plandome Road which, she said, was cleared away immediately. “Hefferin Tree Co. was out immediately,” Donno added, “clearing the trees and opening the road.” Donno herself had a hugh limb from one of their locust trees come down on the house which damaged the front porch.
“All in all,” she reported, “the village survived the storm with little damage.”
Many answered the call for assistance, especially to Great Neck, hardest hit. Mineola dispatched at least four dump-trucks, two front-loaders and 11 workers per day to aid the residents in getting back to a normal and stable lifestyle; one without tree limbs in their windows and stumps on their lawns. According to the village, front-loaders are crucial in a large cleanup. Front-loaders are big tractors that can scoop or grab large piles of debris.
Area homeowners were forced to remain in their homes without electricity, gas, or air conditioning. The storms that touched down in Great Neck inconvenienced residents to a point where they’ve been forced to vacate their domiciles.
The Village of Great Neck was hit with swirling winds and unruly gusts, so hard, in fact, that the National Weather Service investigated the storm to determine if it was actually a tornado that hit Great Neck.
Upon investigating the storm, the Weather Service declared that the storm was a “micro-burst.” A microburst, according to a village representative, is a very localized column of sinking air, producing damaging divergent and straight-line winds at the surface that are similar to but distinguishable from tornadoes which generally have convergent damage.
“The fabric of village life is based on neighbors caring for neighbors,” stated Mineola Mayor Jack Martins. “I think it’s only appropriate that we help our northern neighbors who were not as lucky as our residents to escape this devastation when we have the available resources.”
Martins iterated that he feels the real question is, how prepared are towns and villages when it comes to frantic storms that threaten homes and livelihoods? He told Anton Community Newspapers that, “there were people that were without power four or five days after the storm. And those days, the temperature was in the high 90-degree area. We happen to be one of the larger villages in the town and have resources that other villages do not. It was only the right thing to do in taking action.”
Rich Forestano contributed to this article.