e tunnel under West Street at the Battery in NYC is completely flooded to the top. Photo by Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY staff
By Jessica Bakeman, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- The state is preparing for a nor'easter storm that is approaching New York's vulnerable coastline in the midst of Superstorm Sandy recovery, officials said Tuesday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo directed local governments and state National Guard troops to remove debris and eased insurance regulations for homeowners impacted by Sandy in case the storm hits. He said it might miss New York.
Howard Glaser, director of state operations, said at a Manhattan news conference the National Weather Service gave good news in a conference call with state leaders.
"Our latest information is that the approaching coastal storm may be moving a little further offshore," Glaser said. "If that's true, that would be very good news. Hopefully, that's the case."
He said while the storm will "not by any means be a Sandy, it could bring high winds and coastal flooding to some already vulnerable areas."
The storm could knock down trees and power lines, complicating clean up from last week's natural disaster, he said.
In preparation, Cuomo on Tuesday signed an executive order directing local governments to remove debris piles in affected areas that could pose danger. The governor also assigned some of the 4,000 state National Guard troops who were deployed for Sandy recovery to assist in debris removal.
Cuomo placed search-and-rescue teams in the affected areas as a precaution for the coming storm.
He also changed insurance rules Tuesday to allow people affected by Superstorm Sandy to document and remove debris from their homes.
Instead of inspecting damage on-site, insurance companies will review documentation -- either photos or videos -- of damage to homeowners' property. The move will allow individuals to remove debris before the next storm hits.
Homeowners that remove debris before it is examined should take photos and videos of property damage and keep samples of items, Cuomo said.
"Health and safety must come first," Cuomo said in a statement. "If debris is creating unsafe conditions, people must be able to clear it away without hurting their right to make an insurance claim."
The state has also established a 30-day prohibition for canceling insurance policies of homeowners and small business owners who can't make payments because they are located in areas struck by Sandy.
Cuomo previously said that insurance policies of downstate homeowners will not have a hurricane deductible and most insurers will not apply the deductibles. Also, the federal government is expected to cover flood insurance policies.
"We are acting to preserve homeowners' insurance rights when much is beyond their control," Cuomo said. "They have suffered enough and should not be hurt further by red tape or technicalities."
The insurance changes cover people and businesses in New York City as well as Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to the governor's office.
As of Tuesday evening, there were still 323, 710 customers in New York without power.
At the news conference, Cuomo said the state is on "storm watch" Wednesday and Thursday.
"We've had a little good news, but we live by the adage, 'Prepare for the worst, hope for the best' -- and that's exactly what we're doing," he said.