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Entries in Hurricane Irene (14)

Friday
Feb222013

NY State Engineer Praised Employer Before Being Forced Out

Michael Fayette(NEW YORK) -- A former employee of the New York State's Department of Transportation maintains that he was fired for speaking to the press, even though he had nothing but good things to say about his employer.

But the DOT claims they fired Mike Fayette, an engineer who worked for the agency for 29 years, because of blemishes on his work record.

In August 2012, Fayette, spoke with the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, a newspaper in upstate New York, about Hurricane Irene. Chris Knight, a reporter with the Enterprise, said he first tried contacting the Department of Transportation's press office but did not receive a response. Instead, he reached out to Fayette, 55.

In the article, Fayette praised his employer over its preparation for Hurricane Irene. The newspaper printed a quote from Fayette in bold on its front page: "We were up for it."

This month, Fayette, of Alexandria Bay, N.Y., chose to retire early instead of fighting charges of "insubordination and failure to comply with settlement terms previously agreed upon."

Those settlement terms were in reference to disciplinary actions against him for a relationship with a subordinate employee over a year ago.

Fayette admits that he made a mistake in using his employer-issued Blackberry, computer, and vehicle during communications with the employee.

"It's an embarrassing chapter in my life. I just want to get past it," Fayette said.

He was suspended for 10 days and he was fined 10 days' pay.

"I held up my end of the bargain. They docked my pay and took vacation time. I complied with all of that. When do I stop paying?" Fayette said.

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation provided a statement to ABC News:

"This individual had a record of substantiated violations of state and DOT policy, including the misuse of state resources to further an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate. As publicly available records make clear, his separation from state service was based upon this entire history. Our employees talk to the press every day in the course of their duties, employees are not terminated for failure to follow general media policies and that was not the basis of termination in this case."

The statement that employees are free to talk to the media contradicts Fayette's account of disciplinary actions against him.

In September, after the Enterprise's article was published, Fayette received the first of several letters from the Department of Transportation's Employee Relations Bureau, which ordered him to the agency's main office in Albany on Sept. 12 for a "disciplinary interrogation."

Sometime during the hearing, Fayette said he was shown the Transportation Department's "News Media Contact" policy. It states that the approval of the department's press office is required "for any oral or written statement given to news media representatives," the Enterprise reported.

Two days later, he received a second letter that stated that his employer initiated discipline for "actions constituting misconduct and/or incompetence" and if guilty, "the penalty exacted against you will consist of termination," the Enterprise first reported.

Eventually, the department offered Fayette to relocate to an office in Albany and a permanent demotion in his pay.

Instead of accepting the drop in pay, which would have cost several thousand dollars a year, and unable to afford to move, Fayette chose early retirement instead.

What has made Fayette even more upset than the forced retirement is that a representative of the state shared a detailed account of Fayette's employee history and disciplinary actions on the radio Thursday.

After the Adirondack Daily Enterprise published a story on Wednesday describing Fayette's forced retirement, Howard Glaser, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's director of state operations, was a guest on a radio show. In the interview Glaser described how Fayette used 2,400 emails "to conduct personal business," some of which were sexually explicit, and he was disciplined for "theft of service" and "falsification of time sheets."

As a state employee, Fayette's employee history is public record, but Fayette thinks Glaser's actions were "malicious."

"It was never ever my intention to embarrass the governor of our fine state," said Fayette, adding that he has met the governor previously.

With over a year between his last indiscretion and speaking with the media about Hurricane Irene, Fayette said it seemed contradictory if the straw that broke the camel's back -- speaking to the media -- was actually permissible under agency policy.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Sep062011

How to Spot an Unlicensed Contractor

Steve Cole/DigitalVision(NEW YORK) -- The winds died down a week ago. And now Hurricane Irene's floodwaters are receding too. What's left is a big fat item on your "to do" list that you didn't cause. Make the wrong choice as you scramble to get repairs completed and you could make a bad situation worse.

Did you know you could be arrested for hiring an unlicensed contractor? It's a worst-case scenario, but it's true. In states that require licensing, hiring an unlicensed contractor is illegal.

Did you know an unlicensed contractor who gets hurt on your property could sue you -- and win? Unlicensed contractors are unlikely to carry proper insurance, so it has happened.

These are the extremes. But even the average experience with an unlicensed contractor can be devastating.

Licenses are generally required for any work that affects the structural or electrical integrity of the building. The contractor must be licensed in the state where the work is to be done.

If an unlicensed contractor nails you, you have next to no recourse. There's no license that the state can yank to threaten his livelihood. If you complain about him, he'll just change the name he does business under.

You can't tap into his insurance policy because he doesn't have one. Even suing an unlicensed contractor -- and winning -- is often futile, because unlicensed contractors don't have deep pockets.

Know the signs:

1. Unlicensed contractors often go door to door claiming they "just finished a job down the street."

2. They may rush you and say if you act now, you'll get a special price.

3. Unlicensed contractors either neglect to pull construction permits or they ask you to do it for them. If you do, you are assuming liability for the project, including their mistakes.

4. Some states require contractors to list their license number on their vehicles, their estimates, their websites and their advertising. If a contractor has not done that, it may be a bad sign.

5. If you see a license number in an ad, and it has a different number of letters, numerals and digits than all the other ads, it may be a fake license number.

6. Be wary if a contractor provides only a P.O. box or pager number. That may mean he doesn't have roots in the community and plans to move on as soon as people start to complain.

7. Unlicensed contractors often ask for a lot of money up front. Try not to pay any money in advance. If you must, keep the amount minimal.

Do your homework:

1. Find out what the licensing requirements are for contractors in your state. Also check with your county. If you live in an area where contractors do not have to be licensed, you're going to have to be extra vigilant about who you hire.

2. Try to find your contractor through word of mouth. A satisfied friend or neighbor is a much better source than a free newspaper.

3. Ask to see the contractor's actual paper license. Unlicensed contractors often put fake license numbers in their advertisements.

4. Get the contractor's full name, company name and license number and double check all three with the county and state departments that license contractors.

5. Also ask those departments if the contractor has a history of complaints.

6. Don't be fooled by "occupancy permits" or business licenses. These pieces of paper are worthless to you. Any business owner can get one. Hint: ask the contractor if he had to take a test to get his license. He should have.

7. If the contractor is licensed in another state, but not the one where the work is to be done, that's no protection. Some states do have reciprocal agreements, where a contractor with a license in one state can be "fast tracked" to get a license in another. Until he goes through that process, don't do business with him.

8. Also make sure the contractor is licensed to perform the type of work that you need. A licensed electrician cannot do plumbing work, for example.

9. If you hire a general contractor, make sure the specialists he hires -- like plumbers and electricians -- are licensed too.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Aug302011

Insurers Find Hurricane 'Insurance' on Wall Street

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Insurers and utilities who face major losses related to Hurricane Irene may find some help -- not from the federal government, but Wall Street. Insurance and utility companies, which stand to lose billions of dollars because of the damage from Hurricane Irene, can bet how much damage will be incurred during each hurricane season through a unique financial product known as a weather derivative. And if traders' bids are accurate, they could receive a payout.

Commodity traders began investing weather derivatives in 1999 when they were introduced by the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), which has the world's largest options and futures contracts outstanding.

The CME developed hurricane futures and options contracts in 2007 following the damaging 2005 hurricane season, which included Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane contracts are analogous to insurance premiums for insurers, utility and energy companies, state governments, and other market participants, to hedge against potential hurricane risks, said Paul Peterson, director of CME's commodity research and product development.

Hurricane Irene's damage could reach $7 to $13 billion in losses through 10 East Coast states, despite it making landfall only in North Carolina and New Jersey in the continental U.S.

Companies that want to trade or purchase a hurricane contract can only do so at the beginning of the hurricane season, which runs from June through November. They estimate the potential damage in a hurricane season from the southern tip of Texas to Maine's border with Canada. Traders do so by placing their bets on the wind speed and radius of a hurricane, and the CME has a formula to measure the potential damage using publicly available data from the National Hurricane Center.

"Insurance companies are not necessarily concerned about number of storms or severity of a storm -- they're worried about damage over whole season and the dollar value of insurance claims," Peterson said.

He said for the 2011 hurricane season, 3,700 contracts have been traded, or are "outstanding." If all of this year's contracts are redeemed, or paid out, they will be worth $37 million. But that is unlikely: hurricane contracts are "all or nothing" bets. Purchasers only receive a payout after the hurricane season and only if they are accurate with their predictions.

Because there were no major hurricanes in 2010 and 2009, there were no payouts. In 2010 there were 3,875 outstanding contracts and in 2009, there were 4,000.

Banks even hire meteorologists to assist in trading commodities like soy and wheat, which are heavily influenced by weather.

It is unclear how much damage has actually occurred until the cleanup process is complete, especially for the unexpected effect of flooding -- and most homeowner's policies usually do not cover loss due to flooding. But coverage for future flooding coverage can be purchased from the federal government through the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-800-427-4661.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Stocks Advance After Hurricane Weekend

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Stocks rallied to a positive close Monday after a gainful weekend for insurance companies in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The Dow rose 2.3 percent, closing up 255 points Monday.  The Nasdaq gained 82 points with a 3.3-percent jump.  The S&P closed up 33 points.

Hurricane Irene failed to devastate Eastern coastal cities as much as expected, causing insurance stocks to go up, reports The Wall Street Journal.  Companies like Hartford Financial Services Group, Lincoln National and Travelers all saw gains, rising 13 percent, 8.9 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Aug292011

Wall Street Poised for Gains after Hurricane Irene

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- U.S. stock futures are up Monday, setting up Wall Street for gains as it opens up for trading in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

The storm left extensive flooding in lower Manhattan, but that didn't deter the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq from announcing that business would go on as usual on Monday.  The exchange operators, however, may run into staffing problems as trains and other means of transportation gradually resume operations in New York City, making it troublesome for some employees to get to work.

Monday's positive outlook comes after the stock market ended last week on a high.  The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 135 points higher on Friday, while the Nasdaq added 60 points and the S&P 500 climbed 18.

Meanwhile, markets overseas also appear to be on the upswing on Friday.  European markets are primarily trading higher and most Asian markets wrapped up the day with gains.

South Korea’s Kospi had the biggest showing Friday, climbing 2.8 percent.  Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 and Taiwan’s Taiex followed, adding 1.5 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.  Hong Kong’s Hang Seng also rose 1.4 percent and Japan's Nikkei index gained 0.6 percent.

China’s Shanghai Composite, however, didn't have the same luck, falling 1.4 percent at closing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug282011

Hurricane Irene: Billions of Dollars in Losses Expected

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Hurricane Irene's destructive path through 10 East Coast states left an estimated $7 billion to $13 billion of damage in its wake -- without even accounting for economic losses.

Downed trees and other wind damage could total about $5 billion in personal claims, while flood damage could total about $2 billion in claims, according to a statement released by the Consumer Federation of America. The figure is significantly lower than that of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the statement noted.

On the high end of estimates, University of Maryland professor Peter Morici said $20 billion of damage and economic losses could be felt throughout the weeks after the storm, and Maryland-based Kinetic Analysis Corporation estimated the damage at $13 billion.

Morici noted that the economic losses from closed businesses and transportation throughout the region could increase that number by another $20 billion in the coming days.

Officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it was to early for federal damage estimates.

With more than 11,000 flights canceled and train service around the region suspended indefinitely, travelers will begin the waiting game to get out of town.

Airports in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine are all expected to reopen Monday, while officials at Philadelphia airport said some flights might begin to arrive late Sunday, though departures will still be suspended.

In Philadelphia, subways, busses, and trolleys began to reopen on Sunday, though regional rail service remained suspended.

Mass transit in and around New York City were expected to remain at least partially closed until midday Monday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug282011

Irene Aftermath: Almost 2 Million Customers Left Without Power

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Following the passage of Hurricane Irene through New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, officials estimated that as of Sunday afternoon close to two million people were left without power.

The weather system, which was downgraded to a tropical storm on Sunday, wreaked havoc all over the tri-state area, leaving in its wake, downed trees and power lines, along with flooded homes.

Officials from the Con Edison power company said on Sunday afternoon about 120,000 customers in New York City were without power, while New Jersey had about 750,000 customers without power. Officials in Connecticut say they estimated that over 700,000 customers across the state were powerless.

Con Edison says in addition to its New York-based staff, more than 400 workers from across the nation came to New York over the past few days, to help with restoring power to customers in the wake of Irene. The company says these workers were now being deployed to address the large-scale power problem.

Company officials estimate that the majority of customers will have power restored by sometime Tuesday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Aug282011

NYSE to Resume Regular Trading Monday Despite Irene

TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) – The New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq intends to open on Monday per usual despite extensive flooding in lower Manhattan by Hurricane Irene.

Exchange officials will discuss Monday’s opening in a conference call with the SEC on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug272011

The Top Items People Stock Up on Before Hurricanes 

Jupiterimages/Pixland(NEW YORK) -- Shopping for back-to-school items has been put on hold, as people across the Northeast flood super markets and chain retailers like Walmart and Home Depot to stock up on food and survival items before Hurricane Irene traps them at home.

"Over the course of their experience with hurricanes, Walmart has learned that Strawberry Pop-Tarts are one of the most purchased food items, especially after storms, as they require no heating, can be used at any meal, and last forever," Steve Horwitz, an economist at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., who studied Walmart's response to Hurricane Katrina, told ABC News.

These are the top items that people stock up on before hurricanes hit, Horwitz says:

1. Non-perishable food that can be eaten easily and without heat, such as Pop-Tarts and bread
2. Bottled water
3. Bleach, mops and other cleaning supplies
4. Flashlights/candles etc.
5. First-aid supplies
6. Generators
7. Batteries
8. Ice

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Aug272011

Hurricane Irene Causes Flight Cancellations, Train Disruptions

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- As Hurricane Irene slammed into North Carolina this morning, commuters and travelers across the country are feeling its impact.

More than 8,300 commercial airline flights have already been canceled this weekend, and that number is expected to rise, according to the website Flightware.com.

All airports in the New York area—Newark, John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia—will stop accepting domestic and international arrival flights at noon Saturday.

Public transportation in New York City will stop running at noon, and airport officials do not want arriving passengers to be stranded at the airports.

Sam Schwartz, former commissioner for New York City's Department of Transportation said it will take eight hours to get all the trains and buses tucked safely away.

Philadelphia International Airport will shut down Saturday at 6 p.m.

Most airlines are now giving out travel waivers, meaning they will not charge any fees for flight changes.

But in many cases, you have to book your next flight within a short window.

In the central terminal at LaGuardia Airport, several passengers are stranded in the food court, trying to plot their next move. Many airport shops and restaurants may close at noon.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said it is ready for potential disruptions.

"Additional staff and contractor employees will be assisting customers as needed in every area of airport operations," said the Port Authority, and they will "stock hundreds of cases of bottled water, diapers, cots, blankets and pillows to provide to stranded passengers if necessary.

Under terms of the agency's concession contracts, at least one food vendor in every passenger terminal must remain open 24 hours so that food is available at any time of day or night."

Despite the fact that thousands of flights have been canceled, the departures area at LaGuardia was packed at 6 a.m. Saturday with people trying to get home before they get stranded.

Flights will continue to take off as weather permits.

Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority told ABC News Friday morning about 100 out of 400 flights have been canceled Saturday at RDU and it anticipates further disruptions for flights along the East Coast through Monday, Aug. 29.

How quickly airports can function after Irene will depend on more than clear skies. If the public transportation in New York is not running, many airport personnel may not be able to get to work.

President Obama cut his vacation short by one day, conferencing with his emergency response team, and warned citizens of the dangers of Hurricane Irene.

"I cannot stress this highly enough: If you are in the projected path of this hurricane, you have to take precautions now. Don't wait. Don't delay," Obama warned Friday morning from Martha's Vineyard, urging citizens to visit ready.gov if they are unsure how to prepare.

Amtrak canceled most trains traveling south of Washington, D.C. for Saturday and Sunday.

The railroad announced at 5:40 p.m. Friday it is canceling more East Coast trains with service reductions beginning on today and will not operate trains in the Northeast on Sunday.

Amtrak may make additional announcements as the storm travels north.

Most cruises set sail on weekends, so the ships that had already departed were clear of the storm by the time it made landfall, said Paul Motter, editor of CruiseMates.com.

However, all the major cruise lines have altered their schedules to some degree.

As of 10 a.m. Saturday, Carnival Cruise Lines announced changes to cruises departing this weekend to the Bahamas and Key West, updating guests and suggesting they continue checking the company website.

Carnival Pride has been directed by the U.S. Coast Guard to arrive early from the previous cruise and proceed to a secure, alternate location until the storm passes.

Celebrity Cruises Celebrity Summit did not depart Kings Wharf, Bermuda, Thursday at 6 p.m. Instead, the ship will remain in Bermuda until 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 26. As of Friday morning, the cruise line anticipates the ship will arrive in Bayonne, New Jersey, on Aug. 29.

Holland America HAL's Veendam which left August 21 for a seven-day Bermuda Cruise, departed Bermuda at 5:00pm on Thursday, Aug. 25, and is scheduled to arrive in New York one day early on Saturday, ahead of the storm's anticipated arrival, as of 10 p.m. PDT Thursday.

Norwegian Cruise Line announced changes to the schedules of the Norwegian Jewel on Friday at 2 p.m. and asked travelers to check the companies website.

Royal Caribbean's "Explorer of the Seas" will depart Cape Liberty, Bayonne, N.J., on Saturday at 4 p.m., one hour earlier than originally scheduled.

On Friday at noon, it also cancelled the "Majesty of the Seas" call to CocoCay on Saturday and the "Monarch of the Seas" call to CocoCay on Sunday.

The safest location for a ship during a hurricane is at sea, well away from the storm. A ship should never be in port when a storm hits, because the vessel can be dashed against the pier and sustain damage, he said.

The biggest challenge comes when a hurricane makes landfall the same day that the ship is scheduled to be in its U.S. home port, Motter said. Cruise lines will usually opt to keep ships out to sea until "the coast is clear." The passengers get an extra day of "fun," although the seas may be rougher than usual.

Motter said the worst part of a hurricane during a cruise may be the airline reservation chaos passengers face when they disembark a day later than planned.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







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