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River Towns Reflect One Year After Hurricane Irene

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Looking back to Hurricane Irene, which hit the river towns one year ago , residents and officials are thankful the area was spared from serious damage, and credited preparedness and communication with keeping everyone safe.

“We were generally spared, compared to others,” said Peter Swiderski, mayor of Hastings. “In the end, it could have been so much worse, and we were prepared for more. We were ready.”

Swiderski said villagewide emails were sent throughout the storm, advising residents to “batten down the hatches.” The village’s storm-handling procedures have been strengthened in recent years in the wake of other storms that damaged the area, Swiderski said.

Although Irene caused damage in the river towns, the October snowstorm was much worse, causing half of Ardsley to lose power, said Ardsley Village Manager George Calvi.

“We didn’t experience anything like that with Irene,” Calvi said. “But there was a sinkhole in Addyman Square and water came up over the flood walls where it shouldn’t have.”

The sinkhole is the only remaining evidence of Irene in Ardsley, Calvi said. The three-foot hole still has not been repaired and is now covered by a metal sheet.

“I’m not concerned with what the eye can see,” Calvi said. “I’m concerned with what’s going on underneath.”

Irene was downgraded to a tropical storm before it hit the river towns, but still caused flooding and power outages throughout the area.

During Hurricane Irene, many Hastings residents shared their thoughts, photos and videos via social media. Residents flocked to Twitter to share how they were preparing as well as weather updates, while others posted videos on YouTube of people swimming and kayaking on the Saw Mill River Parkway.

Keeping residents informed was a key factor in keeping the river towns safe, Calvi said.

“We did pretty darn well,” Calvi said. “We did a fine job keeping people posted and telling them to stay off the roads and away from downed power lines.”

Others stressed the importance of communication during the storm as well. The local cable access television station in Hastings allowed officials to get information to residents quickly.

“WHoH-TV’s main objective is to get information out to the public,” said Jen Corso, cable access director at WHoH-TV and a volunteer firefighter. “In the case of Hurricane Irene, we were sending out updates continuously, advising residents of issues such as street closures and power problems throughout the village and county.”

Corso said she was on standby at the fire department in case of an emergency, but said Hastings did not experience as much as the rest of the county.

“Our main issues were the flooding on the Saw Mill River Parkway and the storm surge at MacEchron Waterfront Park,” Corso said.

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