Jim Carter clears the snow on the sidewalk in front of the Sag Harbor Cinema, Saturday morning.
By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
Diane Bucking spent last Friday afternoon in Manhattan with her daughter and a couple of her friends, taking in a taping of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” An eye on the weather, Bucking had three different places they could stay in New York City, but in a snowless city after the taping decided to try and catch an early Hampton Jitney home to Sag Harbor.
She and the girls boarded a 7 p.m. bus out of Manhattan.
They arrived at the Omni Station in Southampton at 9:30 a.m. … the next morning.
Bucking, along with several other East End residents trying to make it home before the brunt of a severe winter blizzard, spent last Friday night on a bus in parking lot next to the William Floyd Parkway, which was “a mosh pit” of stalled and stuck cars, said Bucking.
Beginning with a wintery mix last Friday morning and ending just after noon on Saturday, the Northeast dealt with the first large blizzard of 2013. It brought snow, high wind gusts and flooding, leaving many residents without power and like Bucking, some stranded on roadways while attempting to get home.
According to the National Weather Service, snowfall on the East End ranged anywhere from 12-inches in Bridgehampton to over 19-inches in Riverhead, with the North Fork and north shore of Long Island taking the hardest hit in terms of accumulation.
Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst declared a state of emergency for the Town of Southampton, which was lifted at 8 p.m. last Saturday.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson also declared a state of emergency, which was still in effect as of Tuesday afternoon as the highway department continued its cleanup in the aftermath of the blizzard.
Sag Harbor Village did not declare a state of emergency.
“Everyone around us did,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride. “From the towns to the county to the state, but with [Superintendent of Public Works] Dee [Yardley] and his crew out, plowing streets throughout the entire storm, Sag Harbor was always pretty much open for business. The roads were clear, and our highway department and volunteers all did an excellent job, so we were always in pretty good shape.”
During Tuesday night’s village board meeting, Gilbride made a point of thanking the volunteers, police and Yardley, noting that throughout the storm he heard calls for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, who were aided by the fire department on their calls for the duration of the storm.
“There were a lot of volunteers out there and I just want to say thank you,” he said.
“Highway department did great too,” said trustee Ed Gregory. “Main Street was cleared in time for HarborFrost.”
Prior to the storm, on Friday afternoon, the Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce and The Sag Harbor Express — the organizers of HarborFrost — moved the event from Saturday to Sunday, and changed the date of the Friday Frost Ball to February 22, where it will still be held at Muse in the Harbor.
With Windmill Beach a virtual frozen tundra come Sunday, the Frosty Plunge was cancelled by the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps for safety reasons, but otherwise most HarborFrost events, including ice carving, fire dancers, ZIMA and the fireworks, went on. Close to 300 people gathered for the fireworks Sunday night, despite chilly temperatures.
“That day was packed like it was a summer weekend,” said Gilbride. “The streets were open and a tremendous amount of people were around. It looked like a Norman Rockwell village.”
For Bucking, it was a village she was happy to come home to after a safe, but unnerving bus ride through the heart of the storm on Friday night.
“We exited the tunnel from New York City and it was like another world from the one we left,” said Bucking. “It was like we were floating on a boat. The driver had to weave in and out of stalled and stuck cars.”
The driver, said Bucking, was in complete radio contact with Hampton Jitney officials throughout the storm and was advised to avoid Manorville, but take the William Floyd Parkway east. Around 9:30 p.m., Bucking said they got stuck, like the myriad of cars around them.
“He tried and tried to get us going, but finally we were able to just get off the roadway and into a parking lot,” she said. “The bus was warm. We had water and snacks. I told the girls to turn off their cell phones because there was no way to charge them and we all fell asleep.”
At 6 a.m. the driver decided to give it another try and was able to maneuver the bus into the northbound lane of the William Floyd Parkway, headed away from the East End, but still moving.
“It looked like the morning after out there with all the stranded vehicles, even police cars,” said Bucking.
Finally, the bus found a place it could turn into the southbound lane. Bucking said once the bus got to Montauk Highway, the roads were cleared, and by 9:30 a.m. she was at the Omni in Southampton.
“I was never nervous the entire time,” said Bucking. “The driver was great. The attendant was great. I hope they got an extra day off.”