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Aug 17, 2010 2:45 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Keeping fingers crossed when it comes to hurricane preparedness

Aug 17, 2010 2:45 PM

If a hurricane as powerful as the “Long Island Express”—the hurricane that hit the East End in 1938—roars through East Hampton spreading its devastation, town officials say they are as ready as they can be, although they acknowledge they’ll have their work cut out for them. Weather watchers have been predicting for several years that a hurricane of significant force would hit the East End. The “Long Island Express,” the fastest-moving hurricane on record, packed winds of nearly 130 mph, with gusts topping out at 150 mph, with an accompanying storm surge that some local old-timers say caused waves to break on Main Street in East Hampton.

“There is little else we can do in advance other than what we have prepared. In terms of the things that make a significant difference, I think we’re there,” Bruce Bates, the town’s emergency preparedness coordinator, said on Monday.

Virtually every department in the town has a job to do in the event of a hurricane, according to the inch-thick Town of East Hampton Hurricane/Coastal Storm Emergency Response Plan, which is based on a plan initially published in June 2003.

“The Springs storm was a catalyst for planning an integrated response this year,” said Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson on Monday. “We’re very focused this year on a tight coordination with the chief of police.”

A fast moving thunderstorm moved through Springs on the evening of July 21, downing tree limbs and power lines and snarling traffic.

Hurricane season is from June 1 to November 30.

Mr. Wilkinson said one thing that is under consideration to add to the hurricane preparedness program is a second emergency center, based in Montauk. That hasn’t been set up yet, but Mr. Wilkinson is concerned about a breach between the ocean and Napeague Harbor that could make Montauk Highway impassable.

Mr. Bates said that such a center would coordinate with Town Police in Montauk in the same way the emergency center, located behind Town Hall, would coordinate with police in the western half of the town.

It’s Mr. Wilkinson’s call whether or not the area should be evacuated.

“The emergency response plan itself is an operations checklist,” said Mr. Bates. “There are three levels of activation, depending mostly on the timing of the storm. If the storm is 48 hours out, we go to level one, and as the storm gets nearer, we graduate up to the next level.

“The plans tells us what should be done, and we make sure the tasks of each department get done. For example, the Parks Department will go out to the beaches and remove the lifeguard stations and trash cans, the police will make sure their manpower is in place. The Fire Marshal’s office has their job to do as does animal control,” he said.

One of the first departments to be called will be the Town Highway Department.

“Probably the most important part is clearing the roads, so other emergency departments can get to their locations,” said Highway Superintendent Scott King. “They call us right away. Also, we’ve got a heads-up on the weather and we attach the plows to the trucks and get the payloaders ready ahead of time. I have a list of 20 different local contractors who can provide extra equipment if we need it. We’re in good shape,” he said.

East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker said his officers and other police personnel have been prepared to work 12 hours a day several days in a row. “We want to make sure their families are prepared,” he said. The police will be prepared with water and prepared meals with a two-year shelf life. “We have an internal checklist we’ll go by,” he said.

Police will also patrol emergency shelters, and help transport those with special needs and the elderly if needed.

The Human Services Department keeps a voluntary phone and address list of the disabled and the elderly who may need extra help, or who would need to be notified in the event of an evacuation.

“We update that list twice a year, at the start of the hurricane season in June and again in the winter,” the department’s director, Edna Steck, said. “In addition to the elderly, primarily, we’re concerned with people who are on oxygen, dialysis, any disability that would require assistance.” The Human Services Department would provide transportation with the cooperation of the Transportation Department and Town Police in case of an evacuation.

In the event of a lesser storm, the people on the list would be contacted to see if they are safe and have their needs met. Or they would be contacted 24 to 36 hours in advance if they were to be evacuated, Ms. Steck said.

It has been 25 years since the eye of a hurricane made a direct hit on Long Island and almost 20 years since one swept the island.

In the years since Hurricane Gloria pounded the East End in 1985, knocking out power for more than a week, and Hurricane Bob gave the South Fork a glancing blow in 1991, winter storms and steady erosion have decimated protective dunes. Housing has mushroomed along the coastline, so more people are in harm’s way should a hurricane strike.

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My advice:

1. Keep a chainsaw ready. You never know when you may have to cut up a telephone pole, or a felled tree on an "evacuation route".

2. Keep a case at least of fresh water. Maybe two. It's a precious resource.

3. Three basic pantry staples, in addition to the fresh water.

a. Ramen noodles
b. Tuna fish (canned)
c. Red Kidney beans (canned)
d. Dry spices, other than Ramen packets
e. One container of multi-vitamin.
Aug 19, 10 9:16 PM appended by Mr. Z
AND, how could I forget, a solid pair of "gauntlet cuff" leather work gloves.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 19, 10 9:16 PM
what about the BEER?
By uncleronk (136), southold on Aug 20, 10 11:32 AM
Don't worry, just be one of the first to loot the distributor!!!

Can't believe I have to tell you that!!!!
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 22, 10 8:35 PM
Mayo packets are a great idea, tuna comes in pouches now too, so no need for the can opener!
The ramen packets are poison, MSG.... yuck!
For saving space you may want to go with angel hair pasta, it cooks as quick as Ramen noodles but takes up much less volume by weight.
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 23, 10 12:05 AM
I was going for cost, but I'd take the angel hair along.

I probably should double check my figures on dry weight, vs. cost on the carbs.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 23, 10 11:14 PM
Mayonnaise is a survival food?
By Noah Way (450), Southampton on Aug 19, 10 11:20 PM
I think olive oil would be better (spoilage wise). You do need fats - not fats no #2. ;)
By splashdown (21), sag harbor on Aug 21, 10 4:19 PM
Good thing about mayo packets is, they really don't spoil until you break the seal. But yeah, olive oil will work too.

No fat is a bad thing. You can't live solely on wild rabbit for weeks, it could do you in...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 22, 10 8:35 PM
If you need to evacuate, you had better own a boat. With one small accident on 39, the whole road is completely shut down. Police will need to learn how to expediate traffic. I have been in this situation twice on 39, it was pitiful how police handled the traffic flow.
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Aug 20, 10 9:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Evacuation? You have to be kidding me. We are s.o.l. if we try to leave here.
Everyone knows that who lives here.
By dd13 (2), Southampton on Aug 21, 10 8:58 PM
1 member liked this comment
we are screwed so listen to mr.z hunker down a ride the lighting.i have my bomb shelter finished stocked and ready
By asurest (117), easthampton on Aug 22, 10 1:45 PM
Don't forget the "iron lung", in case of tidal waves.

Half that island off Africa could send a nice one this way.
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 22, 10 8:40 PM
La Palma, if that lets go we are toast!
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 23, 10 12:09 AM
The La Palma theory has been disproven, repeatedly - to the point that the Discovery Network had to air an entire retraction of the documentary they did on Dr. Day and his theory. But, the idea of an island getting hit with a tsunami stands anyway. And, if we get a higher level hurricane, that's very well what we could be in for...
By LocalMom (36), Southampton on Aug 24, 10 9:49 AM
What would looting look like in the Hamptons? Lily Pulitzer clad antiques storming the cheese shop for some dill brie and 7-11 set ablaze for buttered rolls by the trade parade? If we designated a route solely for Ferrari's, Bentley's and Mercedes, perhaps the rest of us would have a chance.
By package4 (39), hampton bays on Aug 22, 10 5:48 PM
Guns and ammo to protect your family and property from the looters and survival food (hold the mayo).

I would never evacuate. May seek higher ground and ride it out but wouldn't leave my stuff unguarded. I've rode out a good number of hurricanes over the years and I'm prepared to do it again

Never get out of the boat..........

By Bilge Water (131), East Hampton on Aug 23, 10 9:47 AM
Flashlights, lanterns and a battery powered radio. Canned food and water enough for 10 days should always be on hand according to the head of emergency preparedness in Suffolk County - winter or summer. Plan for pet food too. And, skip the mayo, it's bad for your heart.
By goldenrod (505), southampton on Aug 23, 10 10:44 AM
How about Canola based mayo?
By ICE (1214), Southhampton on Aug 23, 10 12:35 PM
Allstate just cancelled my homeowner's insurance for no reason. It is effective just after this year's hurricane season ends in late October.
There actuaries must have calculated that the storm is definitely coming in 2011 so they have collected premium payments from me all these years and then bailed out just before I might have to file a claim for the first time.
I was in good hands with Allstate - right up until I might have needed them. I filed a complaint with the State Mostly ...more
By Sag (54), Sag harbor on Aug 24, 10 9:47 AM