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Queens Chronicle

Severe weather expected; officials advise being prepared

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Posted: Thursday, July 26, 2012 12:06 pm | Updated: 12:22 pm, Fri Jul 27, 2012.

City and state officials are warning New Yorkers to be cautious today as weather forecasters predict the possibility of strong storms with heavy rain, damaging winds, hail and even the chance tornado hitting the metropolitan region today.

The National Weather Service says there is a moderate risk for severe weather, with wind being the main threat.

“I urge all New Yorkers to take caution and pay attention to local radio and television reports for the latest information on the progress of these summer storms," Gov. Cuomo said in a press release offering tips on how to stay safe in severe weather. "Proper precautions undertaken now can help ensure that the strong winds and heavy rain cause as little damage as possible and that families and individuals are kept safe from harm."

The city Department of Buildings also advised homeowners to take precautions before a storm hits, and highlighted the responsibility builders, contractors and developers have to secure construction sites.

"The Department will be performing random spot-check inspections of construction sites around the City," the DOB said in its announcement. "If sites are not safely secured, the Department will take immediate enforcement action with the issuance of violations and Stop Work Orders if necessary.

Below is the advice issued by the Governor's Office and the Buildings Department, respectively.

 

From the Governor's Office:

 

Before the storm hits:

  • Tie down or bring inside lawn furniture, trash cans, tools and hanging plants that could be projectiles during the storm.
  • If you have a basement, check sump pumps to ensure they are operating and be prepared to use a backup system.
  • Have a standby generator or alternative source of power available.
  • Check on neighbors, especially the elderly and disabled.

As the storm approaches:

  • Stay inside, away from windows and glass doors.
  • Charge your cellphones and important electronic devices
  • Stay off roads. If you are traveling, find safe shelter immediately.

If you must travel:

  • Do not attempt to drive over flooded roads – turn around and go another way. Water moving at two miles per hour can sweep cars off a road or bridge.
  • Watch for areas where rivers or streams may suddenly rise and flood, such as highway dips, bridges, and low areas.
  • If you are in your car and water begins to rise rapidly around you, abandon the vehicle immediately.

If you are at home or at work:

  • Stay at home unless you have been ordered to leave.
  • Turn refrigerator to maximum cold and open only when necessary.
  • Turn off utilities if told to do so by authorities.
  • Turn off propane tanks.
  • Unplug major appliances.
  • Fill large containers with water.

If winds become strong:

  • Stay away from windows and doors even if they are covered.
  • Close all interior doors.
  • Secure and brace external doors.
  • If you are in a two or multiple-story house, go to an interior lower-floor room.
  • Remain indoors during a severe thunder storm. If warned of a tornado, go to a basement or other low area in your home or business or in a room with no windows.

If you lose electrical service:

  • Call your utility first to determine area repair schedules. Turn off or unplug lights and appliances to prevent a circuit overload when service is restored. Leave one light on to indicate power has been restored.
  • Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to help reduce food spoilage.
  • If you have space in your refrigerator or freezer, fill plastic containers with water, leaving an inch of space inside each one. This will help keep food cold.

If you need to use a generator:

  • Before installing a generator, be sure to properly disconnect from your utility electrical service. If possible, have your generator installed by a qualified electrician.
  • Run generators outside, downwind of structures. Never run a generator indoors. Deadly carbon monoxide gas from the generator's exhaust can spread throughout enclosed spaces.
  • Fuel spilled on a hot generator can cause an explosion. If your generator has a detachable fuel tank remove it before refilling. If this is not possible, shut off the generator and let it cool before refilling.
  • Do not exceed the rated capacity of your generator. Most small, home-use portable generators produce 350 to 12,000 watts of power. Overloading your generator can damage it and appliances connected to it, and may cause a fire. Follow the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Keep children away from generators at all times.

Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • Do not operate generators indoors; the motor emits deadly carbon monoxide gas.
  • Do not use charcoal to cook indoors. It, too, can cause a buildup of carbon monoxide gas.
  • Do not use your gas oven to heat your home -- prolonged use of an open oven in a closed house can create carbon monoxide gas.
  • Install a carbon monoxide alarm.

The best way to receive emergency information is to subscribe to NY-ALERT, the State’s alert and notification system. Visit www.nyalert.gov.

For more information on how to best prepare, visit: http://www.nyprepare.gov.

 

*   *   *   *   *   *

 

From the Department of Buildings:

 These winds may reach higher speeds than forecast [35 mph] depending on the area of the City. Property owners must consider the safety of their buildings and construction sites, including cranes, suspended and supported scaffolding, hoists and any other building appurtenances that may come loose from exposure to high winds. Structures that have been subject to deferred maintenance or are in delicate condition could be at greater risk. The Department suggests consulting a professional to advise how to secure construction sites and buildings. 

            To safeguard construction sites, builders, contractors and developers should take all precautionary measures including but not limited to the following:

•     Tie down and secure material and loose debris at construction sites.

•     Cover electrical equipment from exposure to the weather.

•     Store loose tools, oil cans and extra fuses in a tool box.

•     Secure netting, scaffolding and sidewalk sheds.

•     Suspend crane operations and secure crane equipment when wind speeds reach 30 mph or greater.

•     Suspend hoist operations and secure exterior hoists when wind speeds reach 35 mph or greater, unless manufacturer specifications state otherwise.

•     Brace and secure construction fences.

•     Call 911 if there is an emergency on a construction site. 

            Buildings Bulletin 2010-019 outlines the requirements for vertical netting, debris netting and material fall protection devices at buildings and construction sites.

            To secure a building, property owners should take all precautionary measures including but not limited to the following: 

•     Bring inside loose, lightweight objects such as lawn furniture, potted plants, garbage cans, garden tools and toys.

•     Anchor objects that would be unsafe outside, such as gas grills or propane tanks.

•     Close up and secure patio umbrellas.

•     Secure retractable awnings.

•     Remove aerial antennas and satellite television dishes. 

            New Yorkers are encouraged to call 311 to report non-compliant conditions or 911 to report emergencies at construction sites or buildings. New Yorkers who suspect a building or property has been structurally compromised should call 911. 

            Under §28-301.1 of the Administrative Code of the City of New York, property owners are legally obligated to maintain their properties in a safe condition.  Department weather advisories are strictly a courtesy to remind property owners to prepare their properties for inclement weather and cannot be read to suggest that the Department, rather than the property owner, is responsible for maintaining his or her property.

            For more information, please visit www.nyc.gov/buildings.

— Peter C. Mastrosimone

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