- Associated Press - Thursday, October 1, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Officials urged New Yorkers to be ready and alert for Hurricane Joaquin regardless of uncertainties about its path, stressing that an area stung by Superstorm Sandy three years ago would be better prepared this time.

While the National Hurricane Center’s forecast track as of Thursday evening kept the storm out at sea, officials were taking no chances. State and local agencies moved generators, pumps, lights and other equipment into position. New York City workers cleaned storm drains, stocked shelters and plugged some beach access routes with aluminum panels and sand to prevent flooding.

Officials on Long Island and elsewhere urged residents to make sure they were prepared with three days’ worth of personal supplies, in case they were needed.

“I have learned the hard way,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “that it is better to prepare for the worst.”

Joaquin caused heavy flooding as it ripped through sparsely populated Bahamian islands Thursday as a Category 4 hurricane. The storm was predicted to turn northward Friday, with the hurricane center saying it was “becoming optimistic” that the hurricane wouldn’t directly affect the U.S. East Coast but couldn’t rule out the possibility.

Meanwhile, parts of the East Coast were already suffering flooding and heavy rains from separate storms that were expected to continue in the coming days.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday evening he was heartened by the update, while cautioning that it was too soon to draw conclusions. In any event, “New York City is ready,” he said.

“We went through a lot in this city three years ago as a result of Superstorm Sandy, but out of it came powerful lessons, and we have changed a lot of what we do,” de Blasio said. “This city is a lot safer and much more prepared today.”

Superstorm Sandy, which was spawned when Hurricane Sandy merged with two other weather systems, killed more than 40 people and caused major flooding, massive power outages and other damage in and around the nation’s largest city, among the nearly 200 deaths and $65 billion in damage it caused overall in the U.S.

In the years since, the city has overhauled its evacuation zones and emergency plans, building code changes have lessened the threat of flooding to some structures and the city has made a start on $20 billion worth of storm-resiliency plans, including by building dunes and bolstering bulkheads.

On Long Island, Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said the county is better prepared for a storm now than it was after Sandy. The county has acquired 50 portable traffic lights, floodlights, additional generators and other equipment, he said. Some boats that can operate in shallow water have been distributed to fire departments.

Officials were advising residents to do their part.

“People should be prepared with prescription drugs and other supplies to last three days,” Mangano said.

___

Peltz reported from New York. Associated Press writer Frank Eltman contributed to this report.

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