By JOSH COTTON
While Warren County missed out on the worst of Superstorm Sandy last month, some valuable lessons were learned by local emergency preparedness officials.
Warren County Public Safety Director Todd Lake discussed those lessons with the Council of Governments during the COG's Wednesday night meeting at the 911 Center.
"Fortunately, Warren County was able to skirt most of" the storm, Lake said.
In spite of the miss, he was pleased to see people take storm preparation seriously.
"A lot of people were ready," said Lake. "You couldn't buy a generator within four counties the weekend before. People are listening and recognizing that they have to have themselves prepared."
The biggest lesson learned?
"There could be a major issue with gasoline and an extended power outage," Lake explained. Noting that, after consulting with United Refining officials in the wake of the storm, none of the Kwik Fill and Country Fair gas stations in Warren County have backup electric generation capabilities, emergency services could face severe challenges in the event of an extended outage.
"We identified one of the few places that is holding gasoline is the state hospital," Lake said.
While he was optimistic that "we'd be able to do something," Lake expressed concern for how road crews and hospital staff would be able to get to work as well as how effectively law enforcement could function if faced with limited gasoline resources that could result from an extended outage. "(The) only place we could buy gas without power is the trading post in Tidioute."
Lake informed COG members that he has spoke with Crossett, Inc. about his concern if a similar situation should arise when several days of preparation are available. "They're willing to go to United and get a truckful (of gasoline) and park it in their lot" for law enforcement and emergency services to continue to function, he said.
"Hopefully, we're going to be able to work with United, even if they don't place generators at stations, we can retrofit a couple stations" to be able to distribute gasoline in the event of an extended outage. For example, he explained that retrofitting the Kwik Fill in Pittsfield and the Country Fair on the east side of Warren would, from a geographic standpoint, distribute gasoline so "people could get to work that are critical infrastructure."
While "at the high point, we had between Penelec and Warren Electric 6,000 customers out during the peak of the storm that we did see," the county isn't likely to be declared a disaster area in order to receive funding from the federal government.
"The state is hopeful it will be able to collect enough damage the state will be under the declaration," Lake said. For the county to be eligible, $127,000 of damage would need to be documented. "Warren Electric has over $80,000," he added, but noted that the county "probably won't come up with the other $40,000."
He explained that the $127,000 figure is derived population, approximately three dollars per person. "If we would have got hit a little harder, we would be close up into there."
Lake also told COG members that he received notification on Wednesday that the 911 plan for Warren County was approved. The plan will be in effect until the beginning of 2016.