Is Queens prepared for a major hurricane?
A multi-media public education campaign that puts a critical focus on the borough has been launched by the Mayors Office of Emergency Management.
According to Jerome Hauer, director of the Office, Queens is the most vulnerable area in the City because of its many "storm surge" areas — locations responsible for nine out of 10 hurricane fatalities.
The proof of Queens vulnerability to hurricane force winds can be found in the destructive history of Bob, Carol, Donna, Belle and Gloria as well as non-name storms that have lashed the borough since 1635.
Hurricane Awareness Month, observed in October, is being marked by the distribution of thousands of posters and flyers warning the public to take hurricanes seriously.
The campaign, first in the Citys history, peeks out at New Yorkers from 1140 subway cars, 100 bus shelters and 400 subway platforms.
Hauer said "many New Yorkers believe that hurricanes cant happen here. But they do and their destructiveness has been awesome."
The City agency and its partner, The American Red Cross, are reminding residents of the long history of punishing hurricanes that have ripped the City.
According to a spokesperson for the American Red Cross the Mayors Office of Emergency Management has been formalized under Mayor Giuliani.
"Its the only City emergency agency in the country that is staffed by a Red Cross liaison representative," according to the ARC.
The City agency is often briefed by Professor Nicholas Coch of the Queens College School of Environmental Studies.
In September, when Hurricane Bonnie hovered off the east coast, Coch reminded Queens residents that the northeast has long been spared a serious hurricane onslaught, but a day of reckoning is coming.
Last week Mayor Giuliani urged New Yorkers to become aware of hurricane preparedness measures.
"Even a City as great as New York is occasionally prone to the wrath of Mother Nature," he said in the newly published "New York City Guide to Hurricane Preparedness."
"Being prepared to cope with those instances and protect our families and loved ones is the responsibility of every New Yorker."
The City campaign was described as "urgent because hurricanes are more dangerous now because the Citys coastal population has increased dramatically since the last big storm. This coupled with the fact that most New Yorkers have never experienced a real hurricane," the new hurricane preparedness brochure states.
Queens is particularly vulnerable to hurricane injuries and fatalities because it has the largest number of trees in the city. As past storms have shown, the high winds packed by hurricanes bring these trees down spewing death and destruction in their path.
In a report from The Red Cross on New York Citys most destructive hurricanes, Hurricane Bob in 1991 cited as particularly memorable.
"Relentless waves driven by the storm crashed into Rockaway Beach and parts of Far Rockaway and Arverne. The waters poured through the streets and flooded the basements of residents who thought that living two or three blocks from the shore would protect them from the rampaging seas," the report said.
Shalice Mendez, who was five months pregnant, was forced to flee her basement apartment in Rockaway with her husband Trevor, a post office worker and their two-year-old son after their utilities were cut off by the flood. They visited the Red Cross service center and received hotel lodging as well as vouchers for food and clothing.
Sixty Queens families who were lodged in a local hotel were treated to a Christmas Eve dinner sponsored by Councilwoman Juanita Watkins of Rockaway and the Red Cross.
One of the worst storms to hit the northeastern shoreline in this century roared through the New York area on Dec. 11-13, 1992, carving a path of destruction that affected over 10,000 families and sent more than 1,800 into the safety of Red Cross shelters.
Low lying areas in Queens were hard-hit by this no-name storm as tides began to rise in shore areas from Staten Island to the Hamptons.
If Queens Doesn’t Get Blown Away…
Is Queens prepared for a major hurricane?