July 16, 2023
Albany, NY

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Updates New Yorkers on Extreme Weather

Video, Audio, Photos & Rush Transcript: Governor Hochul Updates New Yorkers on Extreme Weather

Governor Hochul: "We are in danger of seeing record rainfall again, substantial rainfall, and every part of the eastern side of New York is under a flood watch at this momentAnd here's what we're telling everybody, just like we did last week: You have to avoid unnecessary travel."

Hochul: "A flash flood doesn't give you warning. It comes literally in a flash. And in those moments, your car can go from a place of safety to a place of death as we cannot control what waters will do as they start to rise and can trap you in your own vehicleSo please, heed this warning."

Earlier today, Governor Kathy Hochul updated New Yorkers on extreme weather.

VIDEO of the event is available on YouTube here and in TV quality (h.264, mp4) format here.

AUDIO of the event is available here.

PHOTOS of the event are available on the Governor's Flickr page.

A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:

Good afternoon, everyone. First of all, as songwriter Annie Lennox would say, here comes the rain again, New Yorkers. Here comes the rain. It just seems unrelenting this year, and it seems that Mother Nature is not quite done with us yet. Just minutes ago, the National Weather Service upgraded the flood watch to a flood warning, which is far more serious for the immediate vicinity of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan, Nassau, and Westchester Counties. That is in effect till 4:00 PM today, but has a likelihood of being extended beyond that. So again, we went from a warning to a flood watch in this densely populated, urban area, which is a real cause for concern for all of us.

It may not look bad this moment if you look out the window, but the storms are continuing to surround us. And we are in a very, very, what I would call, an unstable weather condition. We are in danger of seeing record rainfall again, substantial rainfall, and every part of the eastern side of New York is under a flood watch at this moment. Also, a tornado watch is in effect for Long Island, Westchester, and Putnam until about three o'clock today. Again, that could be extended.

And here's what we're telling everybody, just like we did last week: You have to avoid unnecessary travel. Once the rain starts, and if you're on a road that simply looks passable with just a little bit of pooling water for one minute, that's the nature of a flash flood. A flash flood doesn't give you warning. It comes literally in a flash. And in those moments, your car can go from a place of safety to a place of death as we cannot control what waters will do as they start to rise and can trap you in your own vehicle, and especially if you're traveling with family members especially, especially if you're traveling with children.

So please, heed this warning. It's just for a short time. Please stay home, stay off the roads until this has passed if you're in one of these designated areas. We've already seen some intense rainfall. Suffolk County had five inches of rain already within two hours. I mean, five inches of rain over the course of a day is a lot. Over two hours, it's quite extraordinary. And just like last week, we had eight inches of rain over a short period of time in Orange County leading to devastating effects. And I know right now our first responders are on the ground. They're ready. They're prepared for the worst. But it all depends on what our citizens are going to do. If they can cooperate with us now and stay off the roads, we can avoid a lot of unnecessary rescues.

In Putnam, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, we've seen one and a half to two inches of rain per hour. But right now, in those areas, we've not seen significant or catastrophic flooding as we speak. And the good news is for those who are [without] power, we had 23,000 people [without] power since the beginning of this event. It is now down to 9,300. But if you're one of those 9,300 families without your power, it is a frightening time.

So, we're going to be working really hard. We had, again, this is about being prepared in advance for storms. Just like last week, this time we have over 5,000 utility workers on the ground in advance of the rain falling. So, they are pre-positioned to be able to assist, restore power as soon as humanly possible. Most of those power outages right now are in Duchess and Sullivan counties. So, as I said before, we're not out of the woods. More rain is coming. And yesterday I directed our resources ahead of these storms. I spoke to the County Executive in Orange County and told him that we have three already - three swift water rescue boats available.

I am so glad we had them prepositioned last week at this time because they were responsible for rescuing countless motorists from their vehicles because we had them in place before the rain started to fall. We have sandbag machines, 3,500 sandbags, 25 tons of sand in Orange County. We have over 4,000 State personnel from the DOT and Thruway, and as I said, actually 5,500 utility workers ready to fix and restore the power outages.

I did spend my morning speaking to County Executives offering our assistance. I spoke to Duchess, Orange, Putnam. Westchester and Suffolk Counties to tell them, first of all, ask them for an assessment of what they're seeing on the ground, what their main concerns are, what roads they're most worried about, what bridges they're afraid of being compromised.

So, I took that information back, but they have been in constant communication and gave lots of compliments to Jackie Bray, who is our emergency responder, our Head of Emergency Services, and also to Kathryn Garcia who has joined me here today, our Head of State Operations. So, they are on speed dial with our team, Kathryn and Jackie, who are doing an incredible job.

It seems week after week, trying to avoid catastrophes. And also, we've reached out to New York City - completely embedded with them, communicating with them about this latest threat that is newly developing, offering all the assistance from our team to the City of New York. But they have a large force. They're very prepared, but we want to let them know we're ready to lend an extra hand if they need it.

And as I said before, this is possibly our new normal. This is the kind of weather that even what should normally be a beautiful beach going Sunday in July can turn into a devastating catastrophe because of Mother Nature. And so, we're still in recovery phase from last week's storm. I'll tell you what we're doing there, but we just announced Friday, I've submitted our major disaster declaration to the Biden Administration, so this has gone forth. We've already estimated over $50 million worth of damage from that two-day event just last week.

And as I said, I surveyed the damage personally. It has left so many business owners and families and homeowners just in a state of shock, not sure what hit them. And again, they are the bullseye of what we think is going to happen again throughout this day and through the night. So, we've been really concerned, particularly about Orange County. And last week I was in Ontario County as well, where people are still cleaning up from the storms there. But as I said, our disaster declaration will cover over a dozen counties. And these counties went from Downstate all the way to the North Country and as far west as Ontario County.

So, we're also trying to find a source, and I know there's a lot of frustration. I heard it firsthand from the homeowners. It is not a natural undertaking for people to have flood insurance in most of New York State unless you live along one of the coastal areas. The fact is, we need to have a conversation about how we can make flood insurance more affordable and accessible to New Yorkers because what we saw last week was a 1,000-year rain event. And if those are going to become more normal, even if it's a 100-year event, homeowners are not prepared, they don't have the money in their pockets and their bank accounts, and they're expected to cover these costs themselves. So we are looking to identify additional funding, which we'll be announcing in the next couple of days, particularly to help the homeowners in Orange County that were hardest hit last week.

So we're going to talk about how we can keep our crews on around the clock, making sure the DOT has already begun their work. If you go up to Bear Mountain, they've had to work so hard to clear and repair damage there at the state park. We're working on checking on our structural integrity of our dams. We have a lot of dams in New York, a lot of culverts, a lot of bridges. And after the rain, you cannot assume that they're safe to pass because you don't know what has happened to the supporting infrastructure during that massive rain event. So before they are reopened again, we have to make sure they're safe.

We also have a wastewater treatment plant in Highland Falls that thank God is back online. What happened last week is that that was compromised and we've now been able to lift the boil water directive as well. And so we have over 600 stretches of road to examine, since it's a lot, it's a large scale area, it's continuing to expand. We had over 600 miles of roads and bridges had to be certified as being safe.

And it is as bad as we got it, our friends in Vermont were really hard hit. They asked for our help. We are sending our New York State Power Authority teams of dam inspectors to help them at their request as well. So they'll be traveling over the border to help our neighbors in need.

So let's remind everybody the safety tips. You heard me say it once, I'll say it five times today. Please do not go into a vehicle unless it's necessary, just until this passes. When the rain is coming, you see a little bit of puddling on roads, that could actually turn very quickly into a dangerous situation. So please heed that warning. And part of the problem is, is that so much of the ground is saturated from last week. What might be able to be contained in a single individual event is different than what happens when it's been sustained over the period of a week, which is what we're dealing with right now.

So that means the flooding will be more intense than usual. As I mentioned about the flooding on the roads, two feet of fast-moving water can float your car. Doesn't sound like a lot, and you think your car is big and safe, it's not. Two feet of water on a road can float your car. And water moving at two miles an hour can sweep your car off the road. So you ought to make sure you have in your vehicles and at home: flashlights, batteries, first aid kits, food, water, medicine. And go over the safety and escape route with your family.

As I spoke to a woman last week in Highland Falls, who literally was trapped in her senior apartment until a rescue team came over and pulled her out of a situation she otherwise would've drowned in, she was still traumatized by that experience. We need to make sure that people know what you do in the case, when the water starts rising in your home, where you can seek help, and in advance, perhaps be aware of where the shelters are and the safety locations for people to go to even before that happens to your home. So that's really important. So, we're going to continue seeing this.

And again, as if the rain coming out of the sky isn't enough, if you start looking up tomorrow, you're going to see a similar situation in what we had a couple weeks ago because of the air quality degradation resulting from the wildfires in Canada. So we're going to have air quality issues once again. Yesterday, I just welcomed back the latest cohort of DEC firefighters who were up in Canada trying to help them. They're back after their two-week stint. We'll continue rotating support in because it's so important to help our friends to the North. But also, it has a devastating effect on our air quality.

So right now, we're likely to be issuing an air quality alert for portions of our State. Seems to be projected to be mostly around Western New York and the North Country at this time. But as we saw, it can shift very quickly and start enveloping our more populated areas.

So, it's likely to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. That's our Orange Category. Again, normal is zero to 50. We're expecting tomorrow to be 100 to 150 on the air quality index. And as I mentioned, the most impacted areas will be the Northern and Western parts of the State. So, people with asthma, people who have compromised respiratory systems, people who just have, because of age or because they're little babies, please, it may not, if you don't see it looking as bad as it did a few weeks ago when the numbers hit 400, it doesn't mean that it's safe for you to breathe if you're in one of these categories. So, look out for each other. Remind everybody, check your cell phones. That's the easiest place to get that number.

And if that number hits 100 or 150 and you're in this category, that's a good day not to be going outdoors and recirculating your air conditioning indoors and in your vehicles to make sure that you're not getting air from the outside. So those are just some of the observations of what's going on today at this very moment, and I'm very happy to take any questions.

Kathryn, is there anything I forgot, overlooked at this time? No? Okay, thank you.

Contact the Governor’s Press Office

Contact us by phone:

Albany: (518) 474-8418
New York City: (212) 681-4640