By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
Hurricane Sandy pummeled the northeast on Monday and Tuesday, on the East End claiming the life of a Montauk resident, causing massive flooding and beach erosion, leaving close to 60,000 residents of the South Fork without power and closing local schools, some for as long as a week.
“Superstorm Sandy,” as the hurricane has been coined, made landfall just south of Atlantic City, N.J. around 8 p.m. as a “post-tropical cyclone,” flooding coastal areas from Delaware to Connecticut with a vicious storm surge and carrying winds as high as 90 miles per hour.
Both East Hampton and Southampton towns, as well as the South Fork villages declared a State of Emergency on Monday as Sandy approached the region, opening up shelters in Riverhead, Hampton Bays, East Hampton and at Pierson Middle/High School. Over 600 people made use of the shelters as the storm battered the East End, including about 30 residents of the Sag Harbor area who took shelter at the high school as of Monday evening, according to Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano.
Despite the damage, including one Wainscott beach-front home that was literally obliterated, among many others damaged by flooding and high winds, the East End was partially spared. Original models for Hurricane Sandy had her wrath impacting the East End of Long Island for as long as 24 hours, throughout Monday evening and into Tuesday afternoon. However, as Hurricane Sandy neared the coast the storm picked up momentum, the worst of the wind gusts affecting the East End in the evening on Monday instead of the prolonged hours of impact originally predicted.
While it may have not have appeared to be so for the thousands of residents and businesses without power by Wednesday afternoon, including Main Street, Sag Harbor, the East End was also sparred the brunt of power outages, roughly half of residents and business owners without power in East Hampton and Southampton Town, as opposed to the 85 percent of homes and businesses island-wide that were left in the dark, according to Long Island Power Authority spokesperson Mark Gross.
However, school districts across the South Fork remained closed as of Wednesday, with the East Hampton and Sag Harbor School Districts as well as Our Lady of the Hamptons (OLH) announcing they would not reopen for classes until Monday, November 5. Southampton School District will also remain closed today, Thursday, November 1, while the Bridgehampton School, which had power on Wednesday, reopened for classes today.
However, there was tragedy associated with the Sandy’s impact on the South Fork.
Edith “Dee” Wright, 52, of Montauk was confirmed by East Hampton Village Police to be the body discovered Tuesday morning on Georgica Beach in East Hampton.
It is believed that Wright was walking her dog on a beach in Montauk when she was carried into the ocean and perished.
Montauk appeared to take the brunt of the storm compared to the rest of the region, becoming an island for several hours Monday night as ocean waters met marsh after crossing Napeague Highway.
Because of the rising tide, impacted by the storm surge and full moon, several docks in Montauk reported damage.
In Sag Harbor, by Monday morning Bay Street was impassable between the Sag Harbor Yacht Club and the Sag Harbor VFW Chelberg & Battle Post 388, swans and ducks swimming in the makeshift lake that was created as rain began battering down on the region that afternoon.
Crews from the Sag Harbor Department of Public Works buoyed the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill on Long Wharf with barriers of sand to protect the delicate structure — now under restoration — from being swept up in the rising tide that lashed Windmill Beach, the Lance Corporal Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge and Long Wharf.
Flooding also occurred behind Main Street, Sag Harbor, creating another impassable water body on West Water Street and Long Island Avenue.
Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department officials made several rescues in the Redwood and Pine Neck areas of Sag Harbor, where officials were going door-to-door in an effort to evacuate residents living in low lying areas affected by a storm surge.
By Wednesday, the water behind Main Street had yet to fully dissipate despite the efforts of the Sag Harbor Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley, who Mayor Brian Gilbride said worked with fire department volunteers to pump out over four million gallons of water by Wednesday morning. While Long Island Avenue was cleared, said Mayor Gilbride, the back street behind Main Street remained flooded.
“We are catching up and the water is going down,” said Mayor Gilbride.
Mayor Gilbride said in an effort to get the rest of Sag Harbor up and running, the village would bring in a handful of tree companies on Thursday to begin cutting down fallen trees and freeing up power crews to focus specifically on fixing power lines.
As an impromptu Pumpkin Trail became a reality on Main Street, Sag Harbor on Wednesday afternoon — Halloween — with shopkeepers and residents bringing candy into the village for costumed children as many stores remained closed for business, the lights on Main Street were revived. Children could be heard cheering as the lights came on, reported one resident.
“As tough as this has been, and I understand many people are still without power, after talking with [Congressman] Tim Bishop, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, I think we have really dodged a bullet compared to the rest of the region,” said Mayor Gilbride on Wednesday. “A lot of that has to do with our volunteers, who have been working for two days to get us through this.”