The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

October 31, 2012

Superstorm has small effect locally

By Howard Balaban
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — Thanks to fairly accurate forecasts, Medina and its surrounding communities wound up overprepared for the inclement weather that hit the area Monday night and Tuesday morning.

Many had predicted the far-reaching winds of Hurricane Sandy would cause significant damage and flooding in the area. However, while the wind was strong and the rain severe at times, Medina Public Works Superintendent Pete Houseknecht said it was “business as usual” for his department.

“We had a few guys out (Tuesday morning) clearing off catch basins and checking for any major limbs that had fallen,” he said. He added that is standard practice in any major rainstorm, particularly in the fall before leaf pickup has occurred.

“It was a little more important to do because of all the leaves that are still on the road,” Houseknecht explained. The leaves can lead to blockages, which can lead to flooding. 

Houseknecht said any blockages were cleared early Tuesday and no one saw nor reported any downed limbs blocking any village roads.

In preparation for the effects of Sandy, Houseknecht said the DPW went through its normal storm readiness routine. The routine, much more normal in the winter in advance of significant snow events, includes making sure all of the department’s trucks are fueled, checking to ensure the proper function of the department’s generators, and fueling chainsaws to aide in the removal of any downed tree limbs.

Houseknecht said in Sandy’s case, the weather was nothing Medina had not seen before. “We really didn’t end up with that much more water than normal,” he said. To illustrate his point, he explained how the village’s wastewater treatment facility processes 1 to 1.5 million gallons of water on a daily basis during dry conditions. In rainy conditions, that number usually falls between 4 and 8 million gallons. The rain that fell as part of Sandy led to the plant processing about 6.5 million gallons. Houseknecht pointed out that Medina’s water plant is rated to process 10 million gallons.

Meanwhile, residents in the community stocked up on necessities in advance of the storm to be on the safe side. At Tops in Medina, Store Manager John Leible said there was a run on bread, milk, bottled water, and soup. Leible said the store normally sees those items become much more popular when there is a blizzard on its way. Given the forecasts regarding Sandy, though, he said he was not surprised to see the same thing happen Monday.

As for how the store prepares to meet citizen demand, Leible said it is a multi-faceted process.

“A lot of the preplanning is done through headquarters,” he said. “Vendors are contacted so that we can increase our supply of milk, bread, and water so we don’t have to worry about meeting our customers’ needs.” Leible said the Tops in Albion and Lockport went through a similar process.

“We were fortunate to have a few days of notice on this storm,” he said, adding that for the Medina Tops an additional order was placed for water to keep the shelves stocked.

The early notice led to all school districts in Orleans County cancelling classes Tuesday. Some called the day off as early as Monday night. In Medina, Superintendent Jeff Evoy woke early Tuesday to make a final decision.

“I was up at 3 a.m. and spoke with our transportation and buildings and grounds people,” Evoy said, noting that he also contacted local law enforcement and other local districts before ultimately deciding to cancel the school day.

As the severe wind and rain gradually let up throughout the morning, Evoy said he had no problem with the decision.

“Whenever it comes to student and staff safety you can never be too careful,” he said. “It’s always easy to play armchair quarterback...but we have a lot of walkers and there were still wind gusts of 40 to 50 miles an hour (Tuesday) morning so we were concerned about the possibility of tree limbs coming down.

“We decided to play it safe and conservative,” Evoy said. He added that the school calendar has a certain amount of weather days built into it so the cancelled classes on Tuesday should not have an effect on any other days off going forward unless “we get hit with multiple winter storms.”

Indeed, while the local effects of Sandy appear to have been quite minimal, the preparation in advance of any weather event is paramount. 

As Houseknecht said, “Being overprepared is a lot better than being underprepared.”