Lessons to be learned from Sandy

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Long Island’s aging infrastructure presents great challenges in storms like this one. Many of the countless trees that fell have been standing for 50 years or more. Parts of the electrical grid are outdated. Right now, while money is tight, elected officials must begin looking at ways to upgrade the infrastructure so that it can better withstand such a beating, by take preventive measures like clearing out dead and dying trees.

The county and local governments can count on receiving state and federal assistance to help rebuild. That money must be spent wisely, to not only repair, but also improve.

The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant failed during the storm, and officials need to investigate why the redundancies in the system didn’t work. The Cedar Creek plant in Wantagh, which was also subjected to a storm surge, continued to operate. We need to find out why.

A day before the storm hit, the county ordered evacuations of low-lying coastal areas. While they were called mandatory, they were anything but, and many people stayed behind in their homes, in harm’s way. We need to have an honest discussion about what the county is and is not prepared to do to enforce such an order in our most at-risk communities. An evacuation plan is one thing — and the county has that covered — but the power, and the capability, to make sure those in danger get out of their homes and to safer places is something else altogether. The county opened about a half-dozen shelters during the storm. Next time, it should double that number.

It’s good that our elected officials were able to put aside their differences and fulfill the primary role of government — to keep people safe and to help those facing adversity. Now that the storm is long gone, however, it’s vital that the cooperation continue, because much of the time and effort that will be devoted to the recovery could be wasted if the process gets bogged down in politics. It’s time for our leaders to really listen to one another, to share their ideas and make the most of what we’ve learned in the trauma of the past week and a half to ensure that Long Island is better prepared for a future Sandy.

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