Bruce Brodoff Communications
Bruce Brodoff Communications
By Richard Weir (NYT)

With images of wind-sheared houses and flooded villages still fresh in the public's mind, the Mayor's Office of Emergency Management has inaugurated a campaign warning New Yorkers about the dangers of a hurricane like the one that just lashed the Caribbean.

The campaign includes nearly 2,000 posters on subway trains and bus shelters featuring photographs of damage from past storms that hit New York City. The office is also distributing more than 100,000 new guides reminding people that hurricane season lasts until Nov. 30 and telling them what to do should the next Georges strike here. (Copies may be obtained by calling (212) 442-9260.)

Jerome M. Hauer, the agency's director, said the drive aimed to counter the general perception among New Yorkers that such catastrophic storms pummel only Southern locales.

"Very few people here have lived through a hurricane of any significance," Mr. Hauer said. "We have developed a complacency."

He said coastal communities on Staten Island and in the eastern Bronx and southeastern Queens, which are prone to flooding and severe wind damage, are particular targets of the awareness campaign. Among the most vulnerable, he said, are the Rockaways, situated on a peninsula no wider than four blocks and buffeted by the Atlantic on one side and Jamaica Bay on the other.

In past storms, firefighters have used rowboats to rescue stranded families. When Gloria struck in 1985, parts of the Rockaways lost electricity for days when trees toppled electric lines. And in 1960, whipped by Donna's powerful winds, the ocean and bay converged on front yards.

So are Rockaway residents ready to get serious about these storms?

On a crisp afternoon last week, with the autumn air bearing no traces of rain, the threat seemed not to be registering. Indeed, in a random survey of 10 homeowners from Beach 101 to Beach 149 Streets, only one person said he had a storm survival kit on hand -- something that the city's new publication, the "New York City Guide to Hurricane Preparedness," strongly recommends.

"You have to be prepared," said Fred Marino, 59, who keeps a carton ready stocked with flashlights, canned goods, candles, matches and first-aid supplies.

"We're surrounded by water and we get a lot of wind," he said.

To prove his point, Mr. Marino pointed to his two false front teeth. He lost the real ones on Labor Day while trying to rescue a backyard gazebo from the grip of a tornado.\

Others said they could, in an emergency, scrape together a couple of cans of Campbell's soup and other provisions. Some even keep plywood around to cover their windows.

But not Tony Franz. About the only item in the guide's recommended survival kit that he has on hand is the flashlight his wife keeps at their bedside for reading.

"Pretty sad, huh?" said Mr. Franz, 30, flashing a guilty look at his 3-year-old daughter.

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