Nor’easter dumps foot of snow, causes beach erosion

A snowstorm hit the North Fork last Thursday with harsh winds and rough waters that ripped up bulkheads, severely eroded Southold Town Beach and washed away a long-standing beach shack at Hashamomuck Cove. 

The storm dumped snow all day Thursday, with varying totals collected by National Weather Services cooperative stations, according to weather service observer Len Llewellyn of Mattituck. In Mattituck, 7.1 inches of snow were recorded. Orient collected 12.5 inches; Baiting Hollow received 14.5; and the station at the Cornell Cooperative Extension center in Riverhead measured 12 inches, Mr. Llewellyn said.

Southold’s Hashamomuck Cove, where north-facing homes are exposed to Long Island Sound, saw heavy damage. Photos and video of the storm’s aftermath show that bulkheads were ripped apart.

Some debris from a bulkhead that “blew out” was pushed through the basement walls of at least one home, cove resident Lynn Laskos said Sunday.

Lynn Laskos captured turbulent waters striking her home on Hashamomuck Cove in Southold. (Courtesy photo)

The beach shack, originally a bait shop where the former Soundview restaurant is now located, was destroyed. It had been moved to its location among homes on the cove in the late 1920s, where it served as a beach shack, complete with a toilet, solar hot water shower and electricity, according to David Corwin.

Both Ms. Laskos and Mr. Corwin noted that, years ago, there were 100 to 150 feet of beach in front of the homes. Ms. Laskos said last week’s storm was worse than a 1994 nor’easter that knocked her previous house off its foundation and into the Sound. The recent storm also breached a portion of County Road 48.

That prompted police to shut down the road between Chapel Lane and Boisseau Avenue to wait out the high tide and debris from the Sound, Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said.

An Army Corps of Engineers plan, projected to cost $17.7 million, would bolster the Hashamomuck Cove area, but the project still needs a non-federal local sponsor, which could be the state, county or town.

“We live there and we’re frightened and it’s scary, and we understand other people’s concerns, but now’s the time we just need an answer because we can’t just keep sinking money into being the buffer to 48,” Ms. Laskos said.

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said issues regarding the cove, including whether or not the town will serve as the local sponsor, are on the agenda for Tuesday’s Town Board work session.

“The ACOE plan is well understood by all levels of government and has been the subject of several discussions in the past,” Mr. Russell said in an email Monday. “I do not believe that a meeting of all agencies would contribute any more to the discussion at this point.”

Town Beach, which sees erosion each year, will again receive sand donated by Cross Sound Ferry from its stockpile from past dredging projects, the supervisor said. Town highway department crews will deliver the sand, which will be spread along the beach well before town beaches are scheduled to open for the summer, he said.

Winds remained strong throughout Friday, creating snowdrifts on roads that were plowed and layered with salt and sand throughout the night by town highway department crews. Mr. Llewellyn said he recorded wind speeds of 33 miles per hour, with gusts up to 49 miles per hour.

Temperatures dropped into the teens and single digits in the days after the storm. Those temperatures were part of the longest string of below-freezing temperatures since 1979, according to the National Weather Service. The streak, which began Dec. 26, ended Monday as local recorded highs rose above 32 degrees.

Southold-based Burt’s Reliable fuel oil company has been busy over the past few days thanks to the below-freezing temperatures, according to general manager Tom Hewitt.

“It has been incredibly hectic,” he said.

The business received calls over the weekend from many homeowners reporting frozen pipes or worried about low oil tank levels.

Some calls came from residents concerned that their heating systems simply were not working at all, but that was not the case, Mr. Hewitt explained. Many local homes are not designed to handle single-digit temperatures, as they may be older or have less efficient insulation or windows, he said.

Town Hall also saw the effects of the low temperatures over the weekend. Offices were closed Monday after pipes in a fire suppression system froze on the east side of the building, where the town assessor’s offices are located, causing “considerable water damage,” Mr. Russell said in an email Monday morning.

Southold Fire Department Chief Jim Rich said the storm was relatively quiet for his department, but he was one of the first responders on the scene Sunday at Town Hall after a fire alarm was triggered.

“When we got there, water was running out the front steps and water was running out of the west side of the east wing,” he said. “There was a stream of water running out the vinyl siding and cascading out the front.”

The fire department was able to shut off the incoming water and a town employee silenced the alarm, Chief Rich said.

The building sustained flooding by about two inches of water and damage to the ceiling, where the pipes are located, Mr. Russell said. Most of the damage was to the structure, he said later Monday.

No official documents were damaged, the supervisor confirmed. While not all of the computer equipment in the affected offices has been thoroughly evaluated, that damage so far appears minimal, he said.

Repairs were underway at Town Hall Monday and the supervisor’s office, justice court, town clerk’s office and tax receiver’s offices were all open again on Tuesday. The assessor’s office remained closed.

Monday’s closure led the Town Board to call an emergency meeting Tuesday to approve a resolution to extend the payment period for the first half of property taxes, originally Wednesday at 4 p.m., to Friday at 4 p.m.

The extension accommodates the lost day, but also addresses “the confusion recently of the federal tax reform package and how it affects people locally,” Mr. Russell said before the vote.

Photo caption: Southold Town Councilman Jim Dinizio visited Hashamomuck Cove in Southold Friday and took photos of the storm damage. (Courtesy photo) 

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