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Torrential Tuesday Brings Rain, Thunder & Flooding to Sag Harbor

Posted on 04 September 2013

flood

Ewan and Bryant O’Donnell enjoy the floodwaters in Sag Harbor, while others were not so lucky. 

By Kathryn G. Menu

As a slow moving rain and thunder storm passed over the East End Tuesday, Joan Tripp watched as a torrent of water flooded down Hempstead Street in front of her home. She checked her basement, which during a heavy deluge might have 12 inches of water easily dealt with by the sump pump she and her husband, Jim, have installed in their home.

“The water was at the top step,” said Tripp on Tuesday. “The entire basement was filled with water.”

Tuesday’s storm brought heavy rains, and thunder, knocking out power for over 1,000 residents of East Hampton and Southampton, flooding roadways and homes. In Sag Harbor, five major problem areas —including Havens Beach near the Tripp residence — were flooded so badly, village officials hired five trucks from John K. Ott Cesspool Service and Quackenbush Cesspools to pump out homes, Havens Beach and roadways.

Nancy Haynes, who lives on Rogers Street, was one of the residents aided by the pump-out. Haynes, whose Rogers Street property is adjacent to a village-owned sump, has suffered this fate on more than one occasion. Her basement had over 2.5 feet of water in it — a hot water heater, fridge, freezer and furnace likely destroyed.

Unlike previous incidents, where Haynes and other residents called on the village to maintain and clean the sump, Haynes said in this instance it was simply a case of a tremendous amount of rainfall.

“It was so sudden, fast and furious,” said Haynes on Wednesday. “They have done such a great job cleaning out the sump. It was almost dry as a bone when I left on Tuesday morning … it just seemed like the storm decided to hover over Sag Harbor.”

According to trustee Ken O’Donnell, who spent the better part of eight hours driving around the village with Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley and Mayor Brian Gilbride, the village’s wastewater treatment plant recorded 6.23 inches of rain over a five-and-a-half hour period.

“My understanding is the drainage system the way it currently is can handle four inches of rain every 12 hours,” said O’Donnell. “I am not sure any system could have handled this.”

According to O’Donnell, during the downpour Tuesday, which ended shortly before 4 p.m., five hot spots incurred flooding throughout Sag Harbor, including Hempstead Street in front of the Tripp residence, sections of Redwood, Spring Street and Rogers Street, with flooding also on Long Island Avenue, Bay Street and even on Route 114.

While the Tripps appreciate the severity of the storm, on Wednesday Joan said she believes another issue that impacted the amount of flooding in her home was the recent drainage and remediation improvements made to the dreen leading to Havens Beach.

The Tripps’, who lost everything in their basement down to the electric panels and circuit breakers as a result of Tuesday’s storm, believe the project may have had engineering flaws that led to six feet of water in their basement.

“In the 23 years that we have lived here full time and 10 years before that we would have had some flooding, sure, maybe even 12 inches, but our pumps would have taken care of it,” said Joan. “This filled up our basement.”

Tripp was grateful for O’Donnell, who came to the house and ensured a cesspool pump out truck was deployed immediately to handle the flooding. .

“We don’t know what to do,” said Tripp. “Should we move? There is no place for the water to go but our house.”

On Wednesday, O’Donnell said the village had already implemented a project that is mapping Sag Harbor and its low-lying areas in an effort to come up with drainage solutions.

“None of us want to live underwater,” he said. “Due to climate change we will be dealing with more severe weather and it has to be addressed because what used to work for two inches of rainfall over 12 hours isn’t working and we will have to start looking at the possibility that volume is increasing. All of the pumps in our system were working on Tuesday.”

Both O’Donnell and Gilbride said they could not be certain the Havens Beach project impacted the Tripp property but that the village was investigating that matter in earnest.

Drainage, added Gilbride, should be looked at in a comprehensive fashion and the village may need to look for resources outside of its two square-miles.

“We have to seek help from the state and the county,” said Gilbride on Wednesday. “There is a tremendous amount of flood and low lying areas in Sag Harbor.

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