New Castle has been so thoroughly hit by Hurricane Sandy that making routine drives through town can be an ardous and dangerous.
"Most of our streets are not safe," said Supervisor Susan Carpenter. She described things as "a mess." About 5,100 Con Edison customers in town lost power, she wrote in a status update. (Editor's Note: The latest Con Edison outage data can be found on its website).
Going through main roads and back roads of town, it was rare to not come across a downed tree or downed power wires. The littered items were ubiquitous, on main roads and back corridors alike. In some cases, small channels were cut between fallen limbs to provide ad hoc routes of passage for smaller roads. Meanwhile, several major roads were cut off by large fallen trees, severing sections of the town from each other.
The town, in conjunction with Con Edison, is working on clearing its streets. State-owned and county-owned roads, which include the main corridors, are being given first priority for clearance, explained New Castle Police Lt. Daniel Cannon, followed by town-owned roads. For the major roads, Routes 117 and 100 have already been cleared, while working is ongoing for Route 133. In a status update sent out Wednesday night, police announced that work on Routes 128 and 120 are also going on.
On the business side, downtown Chappaqua is largely in the dark, with Lange's and the Mobil gas station at the 117/120 intersection being among the few operating merchants. Downtown Millwood appears to be more mixed. For example, a traffic light was spotting not working, while the nearby Millwood Market gas station on Route 100 appeared busy.
Town officials, meanwhile, have announced several items for residents to get help. In an online update, Carpenter announced that the Community Center, which is located on Chappaqua's Senter Street, will open for recharging electronics and for Internet. Gedney Park and the Chappaqua train station will serve as drop-off points for garbage on Thursday and Friday, she wrote, as the town cannot conduct normal trash pick up. Recycling however, will not be accepted at the two spots, and will only be taken on Saturday, in addition to garbage, at the town's recycling and garbage center on Chappaqua's Hunts Lane.
Carpenter explained that Con Edison, working with the town, cuts power to roadways that need to be cleared, with town employees removing trees after. New Castle only has one Con Edison crew assigned to it, she wrote, and more crews are being asked for.
Residents are adapting to the changes.
Patti Bressman lives on Pinecliff Road, which intersects with where Route 120 is closed due to downed wires and a large fallen tree. She explained that she and a friend had to redirect traffic going through. At home, Bressman said, she has a generator to power to sump pumps and her refrigerator.
Her neighbor, Warren Hart, described his situation as "not bad." Hart said that people in the neighborhood were sharing power, WiFi and ice. Hart, who is in the Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps (CVAC), said they've had good coverage for going out to calls, although cell phone reception has been an issue.
Missy Weddle, who lives on an historic section of Route 120 that's by the Quaker meeting house, was one of the few residents in town not to lose power. She explained that her clustered kept theirs.
"We're lucky," she said. Weddle and her family have spent time meeting friends from school.
Below is a copy of Carpenter's report, with italics added for emphasis and visual differentiation from the story:
The Town of New Castle, like much of Westchester , has been hit very hard by Hurricane Sandy. Approximately 5,100 customers in the town have lost power, and many of our roads are either impassible or extremely dangerous. Please be very careful and avoid driving under trees that are hanging on wires to the greatest extent possible. All trees that are hanging and especially trees caught in wires, should be considered potentially dangerous.
We currently have one ConEd crew helping our town employees clear trees from the main roads. Our town employees cannot remove trees from the wires until the Con Ed crew cuts the power to the lines, which limits the ability of our crews to clear roads to one crew. We are continually asking Con Ed for more crews and they have told us there are crews coming in from California to assist. The widespread devastation of this storm has clearly spread their resources even thinner that in past years. Our Emergency Operations Center is set up in Town Hall co-coordinating operations between Con Ed, the Department of Public Works, the Police and the Millwood and Chappaqua Fire Departments. Calls to the police involving public safety are being coordinated through the police department.
The first priority for Con Ed will be public safety measures, clearing dangerous trees of wires so the trees can be cleared from the roads. The first roads to be cleared are the main roads which allow emergency vehicles access to different parts of town. This initial effort does not include power restoration, which will begin as soon as the roads are safe. Your power may still be out some time after the trees on your road are cleared from the wires.
The Community Center will be open starting Thursday, Nov 1, for people to come, charge phones, use the internet, and generally warm up. If there is a need, it can be kept open as a shelter for people who are unable to stay in their homes. The library is unable to open this year because it has no power. The schools have assured us they are willing to assist as soon as their power is restored. As other resources are available, we will make that information available. Our recreation department has been unable to locate some of our RU OK people and most of our meals on wheels participants. If you have a neighbor who may be in need of assistance and be unable to call us, please call 238-7281 and leave a message.
Con Ed is responsible to distribute dry ice to County residents. They have set up sites, mostly in New York City, but have one site in Westchester at Yonkers Raceway. They have promised to identify a site further north to distribute dry ice. We will continue to ask them to do so.
The Town has not been able to pick up garbage this week because most of our garbage routes are not passable. We will have garbage trucks available on Thursday and Friday at both the train station and in Gedney Park for residents who want to bring their household garbage for disposal. The recycling center will be open on Saturday for recycling and household garbage.
Finally, kids are missing Halloween again this year. The Town has designated Wednesday, November 7th as Halloween this year!!! We hope our town will be back in operation and safe by then.