By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
Just a week after parts of the East End contended with power outages, flooding and coastal erosion due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in New Jersey on October 29, residents braced themselves for a second powerful storm, a nor’easter, that blew through the region starting on Wednesday afternoon.
According to the National Weather Service, the nor’easter — dubbed winter storm “Athena” by The Weather Channel — was expected to bring wind gusts as high as 41 to 65 miles per hour potentially leading to more power outages and fallen trees. Rain and potential coastal flooding were also reported to be likely by the National Weather Service.
On Tuesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst issued a voluntary evacuation of low-lying areas in the town in anticipation of the new storm.
On Tuesday night, Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Chief Pete Garypie encouraged residents in areas like Redwood, or other neighborhoods in Sag Harbor and North Haven prone to flooding, to evacuate on a voluntary basis as a precautionary measure.
Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano began going door-to-door on Tuesday warning residents of the incoming storm system.
Southampton Town, coordinating with the Suffolk County Red Cross and local churches established temporary, overnight shelters for residents evacuating their homes at the Methodist Church, 160 Main Street in Southampton Village, at William Floyd High School, 240 Mastic Beach Road in Mastic Beach and at St. Joseph’s College on Sunrise Highway in Patchogue.
In East Hampton, The American Legion in Amagansett will be open as of 10 a.m. today, Thursday, November 8 to house those without power and give residents a place to warm up. Chicken soup and sandwiches will be offered as well.
For those without public water, East Hampton Town has also announced the Suffolk County Water Authority is distributing potable water behind the East Hampton Fire House on Cedar Street at the base of the communications tower, until further notice. Residents must bring their own receptacles.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said clean up efforts in the village — led by Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley and Chief Fabiano — were going well. The village contracted with tree companies in an effort to move larger trees and limbs damaged during Hurricane Sandy off roadways and away from power lines.
Mayor Gilbride, like many East End officials, said ultimately Sandy largely spared the Twin Forks and while the new storm system may impact the South Fork, the region was in no way devastated, as were communities further west like the Rockaways, Breezy Point and Long Beach by Sandy.
Ultimately, said Gilbride, he was more concerned with beach erosion in East Hampton and Southampton towns.
“They are on the ocean, so unfortunately our neighbors have a far bigger problem with this storm than we do,” he said on Tuesday.
Beach erosion was reported throughout East Hampton, in particular in Montauk and in bay areas like Louse Point.
In Southampton, Jennifer Garvey — an aide to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — said the town was working overtime Tuesday to shore up barrier beaches, specifically in East Quogue and Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays.
Garvey said the town has also encouraged residents to construct sand berms in front of their beachfront homes in areas like Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack. Those waterfront communities were so threatened by beach erosion before the storm that the town proposed a large-scale beach re-nourishment project, paid for largely by residents who live in the affected area.
In the meantime, with the nor’easter approaching Garvey said town officials met with residents on Saturday and advised them to continue the construction of sand berms in front of their oceanfront homes.
Garvey said town officials, coordinating with Southampton Town Trustees, enabled homeowners to place sand — either in the form of berms or in Geocubes (large sandbags stitched together) — by simply notifying the town rather than having to wade through an application process.
She said fees associated with these kinds of permits have also been waived, as have vehicle permits to ensure the work could be done.
Residents in that area of Southampton Town want to revive the $24 million beach nourishment program proposed earlier this year, but now see it as critical in the wake of the beach erosion from Sandy.
That plan, proposed to be funded largely by the community itself, stalled after two neighbors expressed concerns over their ability to foot their portion of the bill if Southampton Town agreed to the creation of these erosion districts.
Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, said Garvey, has been working with his department to clean up as many roadways as possible, understanding the nor’easter could bring more downed trees and power lines.
In fact, the Town of Southampton has expanded its curbside fall clean up because of the impact of Sandy and the second storm. According to Gregor residents can place all vegetative materials, including leaves, brush, trees and branches on the curbside for pick up. No bagging of leaves will be required this year, according to Gregor. Residents are encouraged to get their debris on the curbside prior to November 19, he said.
On Wednesday evening, in an email sent to his constituents, Congressman Tim Bishop said his concern about the nor’easter was further erosion of the coastline, particularly on the North Shore of Long Island.
He encouraged any households or businesses damaged by the storm to file claims with their insurer, but also visitwww.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362 to assess their FEMA eligibility for funding.
Meanwhile, a virtual city of linemen and tree workers has popped up at the East Hampton Airport on Industrial Road in Wainscott, in trailers housing as many as 1,000 workers from across the country working to get power to the thousands of customers still in the dark in Suffolk County.
On Wednesday evening, LIPA officials warned that the nor’easter could leave many more without power by Thursday morning, even those who recently had power restored, but vowed to continue the restoration effort.