PUTNAM COUNTY, N.Y. - County Executive MaryEllen Odell led Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other state representatives through the storm-ravaged areas of Putnam County on Wednesday, May 16, to show the damage incurred from Tuesday’s storm that created a trail of destruction throughout the Hudson Valley and left thousands without power and blocked roads with hundreds of downed trees.
The National Weather Service (NWS) confirmed that an EF2 tornado with estimated peak winds of 110 mph moved through a path of 100 yards in neighboring Kent where the roof was torn off a Dunkin Donuts restaurant.
A North Salem art teacher was killed in New Fairfield, Conn. when a tree fell on her car, and two people were killed in Newburgh, including an 11-year-old girl who died when a tree fell on her family's car as it sat in the driveway.
The NWS also said a macroburst with winds up to 90 mph impacted a 4-mile-long area in nearby Cherry Hill. The agency confirmed the event on a damage-assessment tour of Putnam and Orange counties, as well as southern Connecticut. It confirmed that another macroburst—an intense column of sinking air within a thunderstorm— with estimated winds gusting to 80 mph rolled through the area near North Salem, downing about 250 yards worth of trees.
In Mahopac, more than 2,000 NYSEG customers lost power, including the high school where the school board and budget votes were taking place. Power at the high school went out a little before 6 p.m. Backup battery-operated power packs kept the voting machines operative and staff strung generator-operated lights throughout the gym. Power was restored just after the polls closed at 9 p.m. At that time, Highway Superintendent Mike Simone reported more than 25 trees down in Carmel/Mahopac and the closure of at least three roads.
Anecdotal reports of tornadoes or macro busts in Mahopac were given on social media and to Mahopac News reporters, including one at the Verizon store on Route 6, where the store’s front picture window was blown out. Motorists also reported seeing tornado-like activity near Baldwin Place Road. On Bass Road, a gazebo was torn from one resident's back patio and tossed onto the roof, damaging the chimney.
"We were lucky. Literally, had I not delayed the minute before leaving, I would have been in my car in my driveway at the time [trees fell] instead of in the garage," said Cassidy Tewey of Spring Street. "It's crazy. There is a destructive line of trees down along our property which borders Baldwin Place Road."
At a press conference, held in Putnam Valley, Cuomo and Odell gave an update on the recovery efforts.
Odell declared a state of emergency the night of the storm and said the 9-1-1 dispatch center fielded more than 1,800 calls. There were 30,000 customers without power and 144 roads closed throughout the county.
Odell said that NYSEG and Central Hudson were embedded in the Emergency Operations Center and were in communication with county and local officials. The county created a priority list of critical points, which included getting power back on at Putnam Hospital Center, so it can get off its generator.
“It's our hope today after the utility companies complete their assessment that the county and local highway crews will begin to cut and clear the downed trees and poles,” Odell said at the press conference. “Let's be courteous, let's be respectful and let's remember we are all in this together and we will keep everyone in our prayers. We have been lucky in Putnam County [in that] we did not suffer any fatalities.”
Odell thanked first responders for their work during the crisis.
“Keep in mind that they leave their houses and their families to get out there to try to get the roads open and to try to make sure that the community stays safe,” she said. “I want to thank Gov. Cuomo for sending his best and brightest again. We're all getting to know each other, I think, too well over the last several months. But we are working together on this. That's important for everyone to know.”
The governor, who also declared a state emergency for Putnam and Dutchess counties, deployed 125 members of the state National Guard to assist with recovery efforts. In addition, a mobile command center was established, staffed by the Department of Financial Services personnel to assist residents with insurance claims.
"As these extreme weather events continue, New York is committed to stepping up our preparedness and ensuring that all impacted New Yorkers receive the assistance they need to recover and clean up after the storm," Cuomo said at the press conference. "We're on the ground and are working tirelessly to restore power and help the affected communities recover as quickly as possible. The rain is expected to continue. That's going to make the cleanup more difficult, not less difficult."
Cuomo said the state will bring in an additional 1,100 workers to help clean up the mess and the Department of Transportation is on site.
“They'll be working with the county executive to coordinate resources as well as the local town supervisors,” he said. “Department of Homeland Security for the state has hundreds of generators, 60,000 meals for people who may be displaced, et cetera. The Department of Public Service is working with the utilities. There has been an issue in terms of utility response and when you're without power, any delay is too long, and we understand that.”
The Department of Public Service extended Call Center Helpline hours starting May 16, until 7:30 p.m., to assist consumers in their storm restoration efforts. The Call Center Helpline can be reached at 1-800-342-3377.
Dry ice and bottled water were made available and distributed at the town halls of the affected communities, including the Carmel Town Hall in Mahopac.