What had been predicted to could be the first hurricane to make landfall on the East End in 30 years proved to be little more than a drill Aug. 22, as the storm veered eastward and rapidly lost strength in the overnight hours, eventually making landfall in Westerly, Rhode Island.
But rapidly shifting forecasts are nothing new for hurricane season, and, with just over one day to prepare, East Enders snapped to action, boarding up storefronts, filling up their gas tanks and manning firehouse standby crews across the region.
New York State, Suffolk County, and the American Red Cross also got quickly to work, opening hurricane shelters in Southold, Orient, East Hampton and Riverhead as PSEG-Long Island warned the storm could cause power outages for as many as seven to 10 days.
With a storm surge of 3 to 5 feet still predicted well into the morning hours of Aug. 22 (by comparison, 2012’s Superstorm Sandy brought 5 to 7 feet of storm surge to the East End), New York State’s former Governor, Andrew Cuomo, activated 500 members of the National Guard to the region, along with 11 high axle trucks and 14 military Humvees to help with the storm response. It would be one of his last actions in office before stepping down Aug. 23 due to a sexual harassment scandal.
Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone also said Aug. 22 that urban search and rescue teams were ready to deploy to the North and South Forks “if necessary.”
In the end, they did not prove to be necessary. Tidal surges stayed below inundation levels throughout the region. Rainfall totals were higher in the western part of the county, ranging from 3.18 inches in Bellmore to 1.71 inches at the Montauk Airport rand 1.33 inches in Orient.
The highest winds reported on the East End were at Great Gull Island — just east of Plum Island, with 69 miles per hour at a weather station there at 12:01 p.m. Forty-five-mile-per-hour winds were reported at Montauk Airport at 11:24 a.m., 41-mile per hour winds were reported by an Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS) in Southold at 11:25 a.m. and 35-mile-per-hour winds were reported by an AWOS in East Hampton at 9:35 a.m.
“We know that there has been good news with this storm, and it really is a reminder of how difficult it is to project trajectories,” said Mr. Bellone on the morning of the storm. “Just a few days ago this was not on our radar as a storm of significance, and then took a hard turn to the west and yesterday appeared it would be the first time in three decades that Long Island was in the path of a hurricane… You prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
“We are very cognizant of the fact that this time last year, about a year ago, a tropical storm, Isaias, that did not hit us, knocked out 650,000 homes and businesses of electrical power,” he added.
At the peak of the storm, just about 1,300 PSEG-Long Island customers in Suffolk County were without power, less than 1 percent of all ratepayers in the county.