Will Irene take a bite out of the Big Apple?

08/25/2011 4:18 PM |

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Scott Stellman of Environmental East boards up a Greenport home Thursday afternoon

When major storms are in the forecast, the Southold Town Police turn to Hurrevac, a weather tracking service much favored in the emergency management field.

With Hurricane Irene heading north, Chief Martin Flatley is closely following the Hurrevac projections. He was silent earlier today as he studied his computer screen while the program updated its projections.

Then he said, “It doesn’t look good at all.”

The program showed Irene jogging to the west, which would take it over New York City at about 7 p.m. Sunday, the chief said. Earlier Thursday Hurrevac placed the likely landfall somewhere near the Nassau-Suffolk line.  Should the storm hit to the west, there’s scant reason to celebrate out east.

The East End would feel tropical storm-force winds, from 39 to 73 miles per hour, as early as 1 a.m. Sunday and get slammed later in day with sustained winds of up to 100 miles per hour, the strength of a Category 2 storm.

The high winds are just one element of a meteorological triple threat. The storm could also dump up to 12 inches of rain and strike at a time of unusually high tides, perhaps 8 feet about normal, coinciding with the Aug. 28 new moon.

Sunday, said Supervisor Scott Russell, “is going to be a miserable day, no doubt about it.”

On Friday the town is expected to announce the opening of several shelters and call for a voluntary evacuation of low-lying areas. The town has already made that request to residents of Fishers Island.  The  town is reaching out to residents with special needs, those with medical or mobility issues who are unable to get to a shelter, said the supervisor.

“In most cases, the safest approach is to stay put, unless you’re in a flood-prone area,” Mr. Russell added.

An emergency management meeting scheduled for Friday will include representatives from local schools, when some of the shelters are located, plus San Simeon, Peconic Landing and ELIH.

The hospital is implementing its emergency management preparedness plan,” said Paul Connor, ELIH president and CEO. ” The incident command team is making provisions for additional supplies and manpower in order to maintain operations.  The hospital’s executive team continues to monitor the impending storm minute by minute and evaluate patient needs to ensure optimum safety for everyone.”
The town fears the worst for the badly eroded Soundfront at Town Beach and Hashamomoque Cove in Southold. Winter storms stripped away much of the beach parking lot, rebuilt with federal assistance. Several homes immediately to the east suffered extensive damage.

“We anticipate substantial damage along Long Island Sound,” Mr. Russell said.

In Greenport, the Mitchell Park Marina was practically empty by Thursday afternoon and the few boats in port were expected to head out  by late afternoon or Friday morning, according to marina workers. On the other hand, a few mega-yachts looking for a safe berth tied up there.

On Bay Avenue in Greenport Lorene and Michael Solomon hired a crew from Environmental East to board up their circa-1870 home.

The couple bought the “Corwin House” 10 years ago. It’s on high ground and tends not to flood and withstood the 1938 hurricane, Ms. Solomon said. She feared heavy winds could break windows and destroy objects inside the house, which they just finished renovating.

“I’m not trying to panic anybody,” Ms. Solomon said. As a resident of the Florida keys for half the year, she’s well aware of how much damage even a Category 2 hurricane can cause. Hurricane Katrina took a heavy toll on her Florida home, she said.

Still, she was planning a party at the house on Friday and said she won’t move beach umbrellas and chairs from the rear yard until Saturday morning if the storm remains on course.

Some neighbors may scoff at the Solomons’ expending perhaps $2,000 to protect their property, especially if the storm blows out to sea. But Environmental East’s Joan Chambers credits the couple with wisdom in moving quickly.

“We’re doing work on a first come first serve basis and we’re going to run out of plywood and we’re going to run out of time,” she said.

By Thursday morning the company had already received more calls than it could handle before Sunday.