10/17/11 3:44pm
10/17/2011 3:44 PM

TIM KELLY PHOTO | The downed trees that blocked off New Suffolk Road in New Suffolk have long been ground up into wood chips.Tim Kelly Photo The downed trees that blocked off New Suffolk Road in New Suffolk have long been ground up into wood chips.

Interested in picking up some free wood chips?

They’re large — up to six inches — and not particularly pretty, but courtesy of Tropical Storm Irene, Southold Town has tons of ’em to give away.

Since the hurricane-that-was hit Long Island with tropical storm-force winds  in August, the town has taken in 5,000 tons of brush and stumps and has been methodically grinding up that material, said Jim Bunchuck, town solid waste coordinator.

“We became hurricane central right after the storm,” he said. “It’s kept us quite busy, but we’ve managed to keep up with it. It’s been our number one priority since the end of August.”

The town has been heavily dependent upon a high-speed grinder purchased for $420,000 in 2004, Mr. Bunchuck added.

“We’ve gotten out money’s worth and — knock on wood — it’s still going strong,” he said. The town has run the 630-hp cylindrical grinder 9 to 10 hours a day five days a week since the storm passed, said Mr. Bunchuck.

“We grind it up and start swimming in wood chips,” said Mr. Bunchuck. “It’s surprising that it’s kept up this long, but in some areas there were a lot of downed trees.”

The  highway department is about 60 percent through  its special townwide storm debris collection. The time given to residents to drop off storm-caused brush and stumps without cost came to an end Sunday.

“The flow from the public has really dropped off,” Mr. Bunchuck said. “What’s been coming in has been freshly cut material so we knew it wasn’t storm related.”

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09/28/11 5:00pm
09/28/2011 5:00 PM

The temporary Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster recovery office set up in Riverhead to help those affected by Hurricane Irene will close Oct. 1.

The office, which was stationed at Riverhead Fire Department headquarters on Roanoke Avenue, served 84 people since it opened Sept 12, a FEMA official said Wednesday. The office has been open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday with a staff of between seven and 10. The other Suffolk County office at the H. Lee Denison building in Hauppauge will also close as well as centers in four other New York counties, according to a statement.

“We keep our disaster recovery centers open until we feel they are no longer critical in a given area,” Federal Coordinating Officer Philip E. Parr said in a statement.

FEMA officials as well as employee of the Small Business Administration, which provides low interest loan to disaster victims, were available at the center.

The centers in the upstate Essex and Ulster counties, which were hit much harder by the storms, will remain open.

09/02/11 1:38pm
09/02/2011 1:38 PM

COURTESY PHOTO | Suffolk Times reader Rory MacNish sent this photo of an uprooted tree in Mattituck.

The Town of Southold will sponsor a cleanup of hurricane debris over the next several weeks and town officials are trying to spread the word.

In order to get your debris picked up you must place your leaves in biodegradable bags, and have brush and branches in the front of your home on the side of the road.

Highway Department personnel will be picking up the trash, but the effort will take several weeks to complete.

The Southold Town Transfer Center will also accept hurricane debris at no charge until further notice.

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09/01/11 11:19am
09/01/2011 11:19 AM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | John Bruckner (left), President for Long Island Electric Transmission and Distribution Services for National Grid, and Michael Hervey, Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer.

About 60 percent of the 10,000 Southold Town residents who were without power Monday have seen their outages restored, according to the latest numbers from the Long Island Power Authority.

But of all the town’s in Suffolk County, only Smithtown and Shelter Island have a higher percentage of customers still without power.

Currently, 4,107 of the 14,693 LIPA customers in Southold Town are without power.

Peconic has seen the smallest percentage of outages restored with only about half of the 800 customers who lost power there having seen their situation resolved.

The most current local outages remain in the hamlet of Southold, where 1,438 customers are still affected.

Here’s the current list of outages on the North Fork:

Southold — 1,438

Mattituck — 834

Cutchogue — 603

Orient Point — 440

Peconic — 390

Greenport West — 389

Laurel — 13

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08/29/11 5:39pm
08/29/2011 5:39 PM

Because most people heeded the call to stay home, Southold Police reported no major incidents resulting from Irene’s visit to the North Fork, said Chief Martin Flatley.

Dispatchers were busy fielding calls about downed trees and lost power and there were a few minor fires resulting from hot wires. One occurred on Oregon Road in Cutchogue, where a grove of trees near Mill Lane caught fire Sunday, the chief said. The blaze was quickly contained.

In Southold downed wires were removed from a house roof before they could spark a blaze,result in any fire

With what was Hurricane Irene expected to hit the area Saturday, the police beefed up the 4 p.m. to midnight crew,  then rescheduled officers as the storm’s arrival was delayed. All shifts were fully staffed with extra officers. Dispatchers worked 12-hour shifts and there wasn’t a moment when they didn’t have a phone to their ears, the chief said.

At Eastern Long Island Hospital, Stirling Harbor spilled over into the parking lot Sunday, but not enough to cause any problems, said hospital president and CEO Paul Connor III. A Greenport Fire Department pumper was available had there been flooding, he said.

“We’re glad to be part of the Greenport grid,” Mr. Connor said of the village’s own power company. The hospital had to switch on it’s backup generator for only four or five hours.

“Everything went well — better than expected,” he added.

Many traffic lights on Routes 48 and 25 remained out of service Monday and police advised drivers to be cautious.

Three people with special needs found shelter at Southold Town’s Human Resource Center in Mattituck, where the chief said there were more staff members on hand to help than there were people in need of assistance.

Greenport School provided shelter for 12 to 15 people and a few residents sought shelter at Mattituck, Cutchogue East and Southold schools.

Power remains out on most of the North Fork except for Greenport Village. Police headquarters in Peconic is operating on a gas generator, the chief said.

08/29/11 3:36pm

While most of the North Fork remains without power, with few exceptions, Greenport Village is up and running, Mayor David Nyce said.

Most villagers had electricity by Sunday afternoon. Fourth, Fifth and Sixth street residents regained power about 8 p.m. Those along Bay Avenue and merchants in downtown were back up by about 10 p.m.

“We got lucky,” Mr. Nyce said of the storm, which brought a lot of wind, but less rain than had been expected. Although docks at Claudio’s and Preston’s were under water at high tide Sunday, it was only by a couple of inches spared Mitchell Park, he said. The same was true of the area around Stirling Basin.

The village is asking the public’s cooperation in the next 24 hours to limit electric consumption.

Utilities crews were continuing Monday morning to clear streets of limbs and debris and to restore power to the few customers whose service is still out. Crews are replacing downed poles and there may be brief service disruptions during that process, according to village clerk Sylvia Lazzari Pirillo.

Anyone experiencing power problems should call Village Hall at 477-0172.

During the storm, the village used its generators as needed, Mr. Nyce said. But once the storm appeared to abate Sunday afternoon, electric department workers began shutting down them down. A Long Island Power Authority transmission failure farther west on Long Island knocked out villagers as well as residents in surrounding areas.

While the main trunk line that feeds the village is back up, secondary lines from the transformer remained down Monday morning.

Throughout the storm, crews worked furiously as falling trees brought down power lines, the mayor said.

While crews weren’t required to work in winds of more than 55 mph, Mr. Nyce said they did “and did an absolutely amazing job.” National Weather Service cooperative observer Leonard Llewellyn of Mattituck said the wind in Greenport reached 55 mph. He also reported total rainfall in Greenport of 1.98 inches, a far cry from the 5 to 10 inches rain had been predicted.

Merchants who boarded up their stores along Front Street prior to the storm were busy Monday morning removing the plywood. Sandbags that many merchants placed in their doorways in fear of flooding were found to be unnecessary.

08/29/11 1:08pm

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Downed trees and utility poles mean power might not be restored to all customers for a week.

There’s good news and bad news from the Long Island Power Authority on work to restore power to the hundreds of thousands of Long Islanders still without electricity thanks to Irene, the hurricane that became a tropical storm just before it hit over the weekend.

First the good news. The authority said it expects to restore 90 percent of all outages by Friday. The bad news is the other 10 percent may be powerless until next weekend or longer.

At Irene’s peak, over a half million LIPA customers were without power. By Monday that number dropped to just under 370,000.

The company is facing its biggest cleanup since Hurricane Gloria struck the island in 1985.

At a press conference Monday afternoon in Brookhaven, state Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) was highly critical of LIPA’s performance since the storm struck.

“LIPA gets an ‘F,'” said Mr. LaValle, who also represents Riverhead and the rest of the North Fork.  “I spoke with all five East End supervisors and the number one issue right now is LIPA. The supervisors all said [their towns] are not being served.”

As of Monday 10,000 of Southold’s 14,693 LIPA customers remained without power.

08/29/11 12:06pm

TIM KELLY PHOTO | Downed trees blocking New Suffolk Road in New Suffolk.

The Southold Highway Department’s free townwide storm debris pickup will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 6.

As is the case with the spring cleanup, highway crews will work their way through the town picking up brush and limbs placed in front of homes. In the interim, the town transfer station in Cutchogue is accepting storm debris at no cost.

The Town Board is expected to decide today whether the program will begin in Laurel and move east or in Orient and work west. Other specifics, such as whether to limit the size of limbs for collection, also have yet to be worked out. During the annual cleanups the town will not accept limbs longer than six feet.

“It’s an expensive storm and in many cases the cleanup won’t be covered by insurance,” said Supervisor Scott Russell. “If the town has the equipment and manpower, we ought to be out there cleaning up.”

The town is asking for patience and said the collection could take a number of weeks to complete.

08/29/11 9:39am

Irene, which hit the area as a weakened tropical storm, has come and gone without any serious injuries on the North Fork. But she did leave hundreds of downed trees, broken utility poles and nearly 12,000 Southold Town residents still without power. Check out photos from our readers surveying the damage around town.

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ANGEL MEDINA PHOTO | Main Street in Greenport