The watching, waiting and planning has begun.
Southold Town’s emergency management team, which includes the police and local fire departments, gathered Thursday morning to map out a strategy for responding to a visit from Hurricane Irene, which is bearing down on Long Island and could make landfall here Sunday.
Greenport Village officials are doing the same, as is Eastern Long Island Hospital’s leadership
The storm was still in the Carribbean as of Thursday morning, pummeling the Bahamas, but it was expected to head north toward the North Carolina coast by nightfall. The current forecast track has Irene making landfall on Long Island Sunday evening, according to Bill Goodman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Upton.
“Right now Long Island is in the cross hairs,” he said.
When asked if Suffolk County could still be spared from getting hit by Hurricane Irene, Mr. Goodman said most likely not.
“The escape hatch is closing,” he said.
If the hurricane stays over land and travels up through Virginia and New Jersey, it could weaken by the time it hits Long Island, he said. But the current forecast has the storm moving up over the Atlantic. The storm could be a category I, which means winds of 74 to 95 mph or even a category II, which means winds of 96 mph to 110 mph, when it arrives here, he said.
Greenport officials began laying the groundwork Wedneday for what could be anything from a windy, stormy Sunday with some street flooding to a major onslaught from Hurrican Irene as it moves up the East Coast.
If by Friday afternoon a major storm is on the horizon. Mayor David Nyce said he’ll declare a state of emergency.
Mr. Nyce met with village utilities director Jack Naylor, clerk Fire Chief Kenny White, Sylvia Lazzari Pirillo, assistant treasurere Robert Brandt and others to discuss plans that will be coordinated with Southold Town, he said. Public service announcements will begin to be issued Thursday afternoon to alert residents to plans to keep the village safe, the mayor said.
Boaters at the Mitchell Park Marina are being encouraged to move to other ports and those who were expected in Greenport this weekend are being told not to come, he said. The same is true for those bound for the village-owned McCann Campground. There will be no penalties for cancellations this weekend at either the marina or campground, Mr. Nyce said.
“Maritime law states we can’t turn them away,” the mayor said of boaters. He’s hoping his strong urgings coupled with ongoing weather updates will result in mariners erring on the side of caution.
He’s also watching for reports of passing storms that could hit the area by late afternoon today and result in sporadic flash floods. Many parts of Greenport experience flooding in almost every major rainstorm, he said.
The mayor will convene another storm planning meeting at Village Hall Friday morning.
Eastern Long Island Hospital will be implementing its emergency management plan Thursday afternoon, said hospital spokeswoman Pat Kiernan.
Peconic Bay Medical Center CEO Andy Mitchell said that facility has seven to 10 days worth of medical supplies stocked up, and that its three generators are in working order and two rental generators have been reserved.
Farmers are also keeping a close eye on the storms track. Winds over 60 mph could flatten crops, particularly corn. That was one of the impacts of Hurricane Bob, which brushed past Montauk in 1991.
Irene has already caused a change in the schedule of several local events.
A Southold Town Board executive session on Friday has been cancelled, so too is the town Anti-Bias Taskforce’s community picnic scheduled for Saturday.
The Cutchogue Fire Department has moved up the time of its annual chicken barbecue Saturday. Food will be served from 2 to 6 p.m. instead of 4 to 8 p.m.
The forecast calls for sunny skies Friday and then clouds Saturday. Rain is likely Saturday afternoon with heavy rains associated with the hurricane expected near midnight.
Information on hurricane and emergency preparation is available at: