By Brandon Fuhr
On October 29, 2012 Briarcliff Manor saw one of the most destructive storms in history. Sandy had multiple nicknames well before the storm made landfall including the perfect storm, the beginning of the end of the world, and the controversial Frankenstorm. The true culprit behind the storm’s destruction was wind. While there was heavy flooding in coastal towns in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, the northern areas received the brute force of the wind. While there was a lot of destruction due to tree damage in Briarcliff, fortunately there were no deaths.
The first reports of downed power lines and hazardous road conditions began at approximately 5:05 PM on October 29 and reports came in constantly thereafter. Many residents slept on the lowest levels of their houses for fear that a tree would fall on their houses. Miraculously, some trees missed many houses by mere inches. When residents woke up the next morning, most did not have power, and many had substantial tree damage.
Mr. Zegarelli, the village manager, was working around the clock to ensure safety and power restoration immediately after the storm cleared. On a scale from 1-10 ranking the destruction in Briarcliff, Mr. Zegarelli says the storm was “an 8.” He said the storm could have been worse because “we did not have the water or flooding damage we had in Hurricane Floyd or Irene.”
A presentation was recently given to the Mayor and the Board of Trustees explaining why there has been so much tree damage. Part of the answer is the direction of the wind. “The hurricane came virtually out of the opposite direction from what trees were normally accustomed to.” Naturally, trees react to thigmotropisims, which strengthen the tree in the direction the wind blows from. “Trees grow stronger root systems towards the prevailing winds in order to anchor their trunks and trees stimulate wood growth rings to be thicker and stronger in the same direction: facing the prevailing winds.” Unfortunately, the wind hit the trees on their weaker sides and toppled hundreds of trees.
According to Mr. Zegarelli, “between 70-75% of the village was out [of power] for the first 24-48 hours after the storm.” As the village began to get power back, there were actually higher outage spikes because the repairs caused repeat power outages. The damage has already cost the town $250,000 in damage, but this may increase due to remaining effects caused by the storm. However, Mr. Zegarelli is very satisfied with the recovery.
Hopefully, a storm of this nature never hits the region again, but some residents want to bury all of the power lines to reduce power outages. While there are clear economic and logistical implications for doing so, there are ongoing proposals with Con Edison to ensure less downed power lines in the future. Some proposals include “burying the 13K Volt primary wires underground in outage prone areas and then restringing the secondary, individual residential services in a more hardened manner. The use and coordination of eee-maps would also facilitate ready response to downed areas,” said Mr. Zegarelli.
Hurricane Sandy will always be remembered in Briarcliff, and it will be used as a benchmark storm. Now that Briarcliff is nearly back to normal, many residents are going to some of the harder hit areas to lend a hand. While Sandy took many trees in its wake, the sense of community in Briarcliff has been strengthened.