City digs out after blizzard

Packed 20th Street Loops after the blizzard

Packed 20th Street Loop after the blizzard (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

After last year’s fake-out for a “historic” snowstorm that dropped a mere nine inches on the city instead of the predicted three feet, the de Blasio administration was more cautious with the hyperbole preceding last week’s storm.

This time, though, the blizzard delivered: last week’s storm brought the second biggest snowfall since the city started recording the data in 1869, only a tenth of an inch less than the biggest in 2006, with 26.8 inches measured in Central Park by the time the storm dissipated on Saturday night.

The mayor issued a travel ban on all non-emergency vehicles at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday when the forecasts were predicting 20 to 25 inches of snow. While the governor shut down the subway completely in anticipation of last year’s storm, subway service remained at least partially available for the duration of the blizzard, although the MTA did ultimately shut down bus service at noon and service at aboveground subway stations at 4 p.m.

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PCV, sections of ST in preliminary FEMA flood zone maps

(left) Screenshot of FEMA's 2012 flood hazard zone map (right) FEMA's preliminary flood hazard zone map for 2013

(left) Screenshot of FEMA’s 2012 flood hazard zone map (right) FEMA’s preliminary flood hazard zone map for 2013

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the impending arrival of hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Office of Emergency Management have begun releasing preliminary data on flood hazards and evacuation zones.

FEMA released new maps on June 10 based on the best available flood hazard data. The maps are only preliminary but there are already noticeable differences between this year’s and last year’s versions of the flood zones for Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village and Waterside Plaza. The preliminary map can be found at region2coastal.com.

According to the 2012 map, Waterside Plaza, Avenue C, one block of East 23rd Street, less than a block of East 14th Street and only part of the Avenue C loop had a 0.2 percent chance of flood.

On the preliminary map for this year, Waterside Plaza is in a zone with a one percent or greater chance of flooding and has an additional hazard associated with storm waves. East 14th Street to the 14th Street Loop, Avenue C, the Avenue C Loop, the 20th Street Loop, East 23rd Street to First Avenue and all of Peter Cooper Village to the 20th Street Loop have a one percent annual chance of flood hazard. Part of the 14th Street Loop and the Oval are also now in a 0.2 percent annual chance flood hazard zone.

However, the FEMA maps are intended to assist communities and property owners understand flood risks and are created for flood insurance purposes. They are not meant to designate evacuation zones. A spokesperson for the Office of Emergency Management said that there are sometimes overlaps between OEM’s evacuation maps and FEMA’s flood hazard maps, but they are based on different criteria.

The evacuation zones designated by OEM are based solely on the area’s vulnerability to storm surges and are based on life safety, while the flood hazard maps from FEMA tell homeowners what the risk is for flooding over a period of years, and not just due to storm surge. Creeks and streams are taken into account in FEMA’s maps so a building can be located in a flood zone but outside an evacuation zone.

The evacuation zone map from OEM is still preliminary and hasn’t been officially released yet but some changes have already been made, including a switch from letters to numbers to designate the zones. The new zones, from one to six, include an additional 640,000 residents that were not included in the boundaries of the former zones, according to the Hurricane Sandy After Action report that was released by the mayor’s office in May.

There is a link for an evacuation map on the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Facebook page, but this map is only a beta site with preliminary zones and it is not always accessible because the maps are continually being updated, according to OEM. When the official map is released later this month, it will be available at nyc.gov/hurricanezones.

The Midtown East-Stuyvesant Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was planning to give a presentation at the Community Board 6 full board meeting on Wednesday evening about updates to the evacuation zones based on the link posted to the TA’s Facebook page.

However, CERT chief Pat Sallin said on Wednesday morning that they have cancelled this to prevent spreading misinformation based on the posted link.

Presentations from CERT have also been planned for upcoming 13th Precinct and 17th Precinct Community Council meetings, and Sallin said that those presentations will be dependent on whether or not OEM has officially released maps with updated evacuation zones.

As of T&V’s press time, the next 13th Precinct Community Council meeting, set to take place on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at 230 East 21st Street, will have an update on NYC Coastal Storm Evacuation Zones.