By Claire Walla
By midday last Saturday, August 27, Main Street in Sag Harbor looked almost abandoned. Though a smattering of shoppers and diners continued to mill about, many storefronts were boarded up with plywood (a first for most), or else covered with adhesive tape.
All were preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
In the height of her projected force here on the East End, at one point Irene was expected to cut a path straight through Sag Harbor, bringing winds that topped 100 miles per hour and rains that would fetch up to 10 inches of water. While the tropical storm didn’t quite bring the devastation many in here Sag Harbor expected, her presence on Main Street was certainly felt. Here are some of the stories from last weekend’s tropical storm.
Food has been flying off the shelves at Schiavoni’s IGA Market. Unfortunately, owner Matt Schiavoni said it’s partially been a bit of a purge.
Last Friday, customers waited in long lines behind carts piled high with enough food to get them through the storm. The market sold 50 cases of water last Thursday, and at least 100 cases on Friday, Schiavoni said.
But by Monday, Schiavoni was piling food into the dumpster out back. He even had to call in a second bin.
Without electricity in the wake of Irene, the Sag Harbor IGA lost all frozen and perishable foods, like meat and dairy products. (Judy Schiavoni even trolled Main Street on Monday handing out ice cream for any and all takers.)
When all was said and done, Schiavoni said the damage really couldn’t have been any worse. Aside from the building sustaining physical damage, which he said fortunately it didn’t, “all the damage was caused when the power went out.”
An inventory was kept of every item tossed into the dumpster and will be recorded as an insurance claim. Meats and deli items were delivered on Wednesday. And when Schiavoni’s gets its next shipment of ice cream this Friday, the store will be up-and-running, just as it was a week before.
Emporium True Value Hardware Store
In the midst of shuttered storefronts and taped-up windows, Emporium True Value Hardware was an anomaly this past weekend: it looked the same before and — thanks to milder winds than originally predicted — after Irene came to town.
But inside, in the days leading up to the storm owner Frank D’Angelo said he sold-out of “D” batteries, flashlights and radios. Business was bustling Friday morning, as dozens of shoppers looked for amenities to prepare for Irene.
“It was absolutely insane,” said an employee. “At least a dozen people were waiting outside before we opened at 7:45 a.m.”
Signs were posted in at least three locations in the store informing customers that “D” batteries were out of stock. And employees continually informed inquisitive customers that the store was also out of flashlights.
“We’re literally selling key-chain flashlights,” the employee said. Emporium True Value was also sold out of lanterns, lamp oil, radios and 6-volt batteries. “Those were the first to go,” he said of the 6-volts.
Anticipating a flurry of returns on unused items, the store posted a hand-drawn sign near the battery display last week informing customers that batteries could not be returned. By Tuesday this week, it had been moved to the front counter next to the register.
However, D’Angelo said the store did not see any batteries back in its midst.
“Not a single one,” he confirmed.
Our Gig, Too
As she stretched beige-colored masking tape across the length of her store’s front windows last Friday, Denise O’Malley of Our Gig, Too worried about the destruction Irene might bring. She said she was headed to the store’s basement next to move all merchandise to higher ground, in anticipation of flooding.
But Irene brought little of that.
Though her store was still “half-with-half-without” power by Tuesday afternoon, all in all O’Malley said the village was lucky.
“Everyone was expecting some water to come” with the storm, she said. But, like most businesses on Main Street, she said her shop suffered little damage.
“It looks like we prepared for nothing,” she continued. But …when you think of all the disasters we’ve seen recently — like Katrina and the tsunami in Japan — it seems like anything’s possible.”
O’Malley took a moment before continuing. “If we had a tsunami…” she trailed off for a moment more. “We’d have no place else to go.”
Last week, Harbor Heights Gas Station hit “record breaking” sales.
That was what owner John Leonard declared on Friday as a steady stream of cars flowed through the station. Thousands of East End residents flocked to gas stations across the East End to fill up their tanks as a precautionary measure in preparation for the storm.
On Friday, Leonard said his station had been so busy, in fact, that “I’ve been working here for the past two days, non-stop!”
He added that the station received two truckloads with 9,200 gallons of fuel on Saturday and Monday to replenish the station’s stock. While the Getty station on the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike ran out of fuel late Thursday afternoon, Leonard said he was ready for the barrage of vehicles that remained constant at Harbor Heights through Saturday.
“We were prepared,” he affirmed. Having been through several hurricanes in Florida himself, Leonard anticipated the gas-pump rush. “I had my orders in on Tuesday for the week.”
The end of the week saw multi-car lineups at gas stations in East Hampton and Southampton, prompting 20-minute waits in some spots and even verbal altercations between drivers.
Leonard said there had been none of that at his gas station. Though he did add that one man stirred up a bit of trouble Friday when he tried to jump the line of cars; however, the situation was abated before the gloves came off.
Still wearing her wedding gown — with a pair of orange high tops — when she arrived at the bar of The American Hotel last Saturday night, the sight of Debbie Hunekan and Carl Brandl, her tux-clad groom, was particularly surprising.
Despite the dire weather predictions, Brandl and Hunekan, who came to the hotel after tying the knot, decided to go through with their Saturday evening ceremony — which concluded just hours before the first winds set in.
“The wedding was supposed to take place on Long Beach,” Hunekan said this week. “We called Judge Eddie Burke and he said, ‘I don’t think that’s going to happen. Long Beach is covered in water.’”
So the show moved south, to Hunekan’s mother’s house in Water Mill.
And while the couple had the perfect backdrop for a memorable occasion — they made their wedding song “Come Rain or Come Shine” and switched the evening’s cocktail to a Dark and Stormy — Brandl said the most touching part of the evening was seeing friends and family come together to keep the ceremony alive.
Friends stepped in to cater when the company they hired backed out; and, even though he had canceled all other events for Saturday, Hunekan said Steve Clark of Sperry Tents kept their wedding canopy in place for the duration of the evening.
Of their 90-or-so invited guests, 85 of them showed up.
“That made it all the more meaningful,” Brundl continued. “That they still came.”
On Monday morning, though the John Jermain Memorial Library was open for business, the light streaming through the windows of its temporary home on West Water Street was the only light patrons had to read by.
On Wednesday, director Cathy Creedon beamed at the prospect she was able to open the library so soon after the storm, and was even more pleased at the number of patrons who stocked up on books beforehand.
On Monday, Creedon pointed to the practically empty new fiction stacks and said, “It looks like the battery section of the hardware store.”
But last Friday, Creedon nervously watched as adhesive flashing was placed on the roof of the historic JJML building on Main Street in preparation of the storm. Leaks at the building have grown over the last two years. While the library nears approval to move forward with restoration and expansion, each storm that arrives before the project is completed has the potential to damage the structure further.
Before the storm, Creedon said the library also removed from the exterior of the structure scaffolding that has been in place since 2006 to protect patrons from the crumbling façade. Library staff noticed the wood holding the scaffolding in place had rotted and worried that the storm could wrench it loose, creating a hazard.
On Monday, Creedon said the dome did not appear to show signs of more leakage, however a leak in the stairwell to the third floor rotunda had grown larger and the library’s terra cotta roof was also showing signs of water infiltration, a “grave concern” for the library board.
However, on Monday, Creedon remained happy that the library was still providing service.
“We will probably close when the angle of the sun no longer shines into the building,” she said late Monday afternoon.
“Yeah, like after its dark,” library circulation director Pat Brandt added wryly.
Usually at this time of year, the Ship Ashore Marina boat yard is a dusty expanse that curves along a few hundred feet of Sag Harbor Cove. While boats tend to come in and out of the water at regular intervals, they’re either stored in a massive shed on the property or tied up to the dock near the shallow shore.
Hurricane Irene changed all that.
“They’re packed like sardines!” one boat-owner exclaimed last Friday as he walked through the yard.
According Gayle Pickering, whose husband Rick owns Ship Ashore Marina, boat crews pulled about one boat every 20 minutes and ultimately pulled precisely 60 boats last Thursday, August 25, bringing the total number of land-bound vessels to roughly 170.
By Wednesday of this week — after the storm brought milder conditions than originally predicted — Rick Pickering said he was exhausted.
“Everyone’s walking around with stars in their eyes!” he exclaimed, noting that he and his crew had already put 126 boats back in the water since Monday. There are approximately 14 that will stay grounded, but he said he’s still got about 25 to go until Ship Ashore is back to basics.