UB Police Deployed Downstate for Hurricane Irene Relief

August 29, 2011 Updated Aug 29, 2011 at 3:20 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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UB Police Deployed Downstate for Hurricane Irene Relief

August 29, 2011 Updated Aug 29, 2011 at 3:20 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW-Release)

Lt. Joshua B. Sticht and seven other UB police officers left Buffalo late Saturday night on route to the SUNY Purchase campus to join more than 30 other SUNY police officers asked by SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher to assist National Guard units patrolling downstate during the hurricane warning.

UB's contingent was the largest group of any SUNY school responding to calls for extra help in what officials feared could be a major disaster hitting the downstate area.

Accompanying Sticht to New York City were UB officers Brieanna Hahn, Sergio Disanto, Robert Breidenstein, Russell Muff, Dale Hohl, Phillip McDonald and Tammy Schafran.

"We saw a lot of flooded-out roadways, a lot of traffic signals not working and a lot of downed trees," said Sticht, whose UB unit was deployed in Brooklyn and Manhattan. "But as far as property damage to buildings, it wasn't nearly as bad as we thought it would be."

The eight UB officers in three university police vehicles arrived at Purchase about 6 a.m. Sunday. They were then sent to the National Guard Armory at Lexington Avenue and 26th Street, a high point near Lower Manhattan where damage and flooding was expected to be the worst.

They then were assigned to escort National Guard emergency medical technicians and other medical personnel into areas of New York reported to be hard hit by heavy rains and high winds. The officers helped establish and enforce roadblocks in Manhattan. Some were sent to parts of Brooklyn where they helped direct traffic and clear fallen trees, including some blocked roads around hospitals.

"When we arrived, it was still raining very hard," says Sticht. "But as the units were deployed, the rain let up. It was still very windy so trees kept falling all over the place."

But for the most part, the city seemed to have taken necessary precautions and braced itself for the worst of the storm to pass.

"It was a little bit spooky driving into Manhattan and having it be as empty as it was," he says. "There were some storefronts with plywood over their windows and a lot of stores that had taped over their windows."

Sticht said except for some traffic accidents the UB convoy saw on the way down, he saw no injuries. On their way to New York, the opposite lane of the Major Deegan Expressway was completely flooded.

"We put out a call early Saturday to get a list of officers to deploy in the storm area if needed," says Gerald W. Schoenle Jr., chief of UB Police. "Over 50 percent of the department responded by saying they would be most interested in helping anyway they can.

"I am very proud and impressed with the UB Police department response for that call for assistance," Schoenle says. "I had people disappointed that they couldn't go."

Schoenle said he decided the university could spare the eight officers sent to New York City, although this was the first week of classes. Another group of eight was standing by in case they were needed.

By 8 p.m. Sunday, the National Guard units released the UB officers. They stayed in New York City overnight and drove back to Buffalo Monday morning.

"It was a fantastic experience to see all the coordination of departments, from the National Guard, to ourselves to the fire departments," said Sticht. "The interaction and cooperation all around was fantastic."