Southold quiet as Irene churns toward the North Fork

TIM KELLY PHOTO | With Hurricane Irene on the way, Legends Restaurant owner Dennis Harkoff wasted little time in boarding up the still-open eatery Saturday morning. He received a helping hand from Tom Thompson of Cutchogue.

Few cars are on the road, shoppers have gotten what they need and gas station lines has thinned out as Southold braces for the wet and windy arrival of Hurricane Irene later today.

The town is preparing for the 7 p.m. opening of its emergency shelters in local schools, and while officials urge residents in low-lying areas to seek shelter elsewhere, there are no plans to impose a mandatory evacuation as some West End communities have done, said Police Chief Martin Flatley.

“We’re not planning to order anybody out,” he said. “We hope that by seven people will be in place, perhaps at a friend’s house or at a shelter.”

The worst of the storm is expected to hit near midnight, the chief said, and continue through to early afternoon Sunday. The current forecast puts Irene at a minimal Category 1 hurricane with sustained winds about 75 mph with gusts from 85 to 100. The latest projected track shows it coming ashore near the Nassau/Queens line or into Queens, said the chief.

“I has shifted to the west,” he said. “We’re on the wind-affected side and the city is on the flood-effected side.  I don’t know if that’s better or worse.”