Story by Lourice Angie
The day started off with pleasantly warm weather and clear skies on Tues., May 15 before a swath of severe thunderstorms erupted over the Appalachians wreaking havoc across parts of Pennsylvania and making their way to central and eastern New York State and Orange County by the late afternoon.
At about 4:25 p.m. the storm abruptly swept through the Town of Warwick creating what appeared to be an explosion of dark storm clouds in the sky followed by powerful winds, frequent lightning and thunder strikes, blinding downpours of rain, and isolated flooding. Tornado warnings were issued for Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties. The storm caused downed trees and sporadic power outages that left approximately 1,900 Village residents in the dark.
The Warwick Valley School District sent out emergency call notifications to the homes of Park Ave. and Sanfordville Elementary School students. Families were alerted to prepare for potential school closings on Wednesday morning due to power outages at both schools and the hazardous road conditions.
The Village of Warwick posted updates on their website and Facebook page on Tuesday that read: “There has been extensive damage throughout the Orange & Rockland service area. Resources will be focused on clearing downed wires, trees and poles blocking roadways. It is unlikely that power will be restored this evening, however restoration will begin will full crews tomorrow morning.”
Residents were urged to call the Warwick Police Department in case of emergencies. By Tues., night the storm subsided and O&R utility workers and Town DPW crew worked throughout the night to restore electricity and clear roadways of debris.
On Wed., morning most of the power had been restored to residents and all Warwick Valley Schools were open. Warwick Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton said that the storm was clearly extensive and that the Town DPW crews cleared up roads as quickly as they could, with the exception of those that had downed trees caught in wires which needed to be handled by O&R Utilities before they could be cleaned up.
“I think there was a lot of confusion with the communication between the Town and O&R. I connected with them several times throughout the night and was told that no restorations would be made until the morning and suddenly most of the power was restored. About half of the power to the south part of the Town and Village was out from the beginning of the storm until about 10:30 p.m. or so. There are still some isolated incidents all around. I will definitely be making some follow up calls to O&R today so we can try to get a sense of what kind of response efforts they had. There seemed to be several miscommunications on their location and what was being done,” said Sweeton.
“We certainly want to understand that process, I don’t want to downplay the extent of what happened because it was clearly severe. We were notified about the severity and a rapid response plan by O&R two days prior to the storm, but it seems like their response efforts were still unclear and confusing. My questions to O&R, in hopes they will provide answers will be – How many crews were out?; Where they were?; and How quickly they responded?” said Sweeton.
A worker for O&R Utilities said that they did not have information on the exact number of power outages because some had occurred this morning as wires were still being affected by branches and trees. They did not comment on how many crews were out or their locations, but said that a lot more damage was caused by the storm to Rockland County.
For storm and power restoration updates visit www.oru.com In case of an emergency call the Warwick Police Department at 986-3423.