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The fire hall in Ausable Forks was seriously damaged during tropical storm Irene two years ago. Photo: Brian Mann
The fire hall in Ausable Forks was seriously damaged during tropical storm Irene two years ago. Photo: Brian Mann

Cuomo talks storm readiness, avoids climate talk

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Governor Andrew Cuomo was in the Adirondacks again yesterday. He visited Ausable Forks to talk about how New York communities can harden themselves to prepare for future storms and flooding.

Cuomo also offered funding to help communities develop their infrastructure, and he delivered $1.5 million in aid to help rebuild the Upper Jay fire hall, which was damaged during tropical storm Irene.

While Cuomo continues to talk about storm readiness, he also continues to raise questions about climate change - which many scientists believe is causing more extreme weather events.

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Reported by

Brian Mann
Adirondack Bureau Chief

The big moment in yesterday’s ceremony in Ausable Forks was when Governor Cuomo promised much-needed money to help replace Upper Jay’s fire hall, which sits in the flood plain of the Ausable River and was heavily damaged during the flash flood two years ago.

Governor Cuomo has promised $1.5 million in aid to rebuild Upper Jay's firehouse. Photo: Brian Mann
Governor Cuomo has promised $1.5 million in aid to rebuild Upper Jay's firehouse. Photo: Brian Mann
"Upper Jay is about $1.5 million short in their ability to replace the fire house. And when we leave here today, Upper Jay will no longer be $1.5 million short."

Jay town supervisor Randy Douglas described the additional funding as a needed boost for a community that’s still rebuilding two years after the storm.

"I thank you from the bottom of our hearts," Douglas said.  "They've struggled for two years.  Without your help, I don't know what we would have done for the fire department."

But Cuomo’s visit was really meant to highlight a much broader initiative, which he’s labeled New York Rising that was unveiled last month.

102 communities around the state will compete for grants, totaling around 750 million dollars, that will help them prepare on a local level for future storms and future floods.

"Organize the community, come together and have a conversation [about] what did we learn from these situations, how do we better prepare the community so when we go through this again it's not as damaging, not as severe."

The towns of Keene and Jay are each eligible to win up to $3 million a apiece for this kind of effort – and governor Cuomo says the best preparation plans will win extra funding.

The governor has said repeatedly that he takes it as a point of fact that extreme weather events will happen more often, putting more stress on communities and governments.

"For me, it's been a constant cycle of these situations from the day I was sworn in," he said, referring to repeated major storm and flood events.

But once again this week, Governor Cuomo did something that he’s often done before – declining to connect the dots between storms like Sandy, Irene and Lee and the risks of climate change.

Many scientists think that global warming is already making these big storms more powerful and damaging.   

But at yesterday’s ceremony, one of the committee members of the local flood response panel, Vinnie McClelland from the town of Keene – did speak expressly to the risk of carbon pollution.

"Climate change is real," he said.  "We will be faced with a variety of challenges in the future, including increasing floods."

McClelland is co-chair of the panel that will develop a plan to help prepare communities in the Ausable River valley for future storms.  His own store, the Mountaineer in Keene, was heavily damaged during Irene.

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