Isaias Update: NOAA Predicts “Extremely Active” Hurricane Season

Aug. 6 Update:

As East Enders cleaned up tree limb debris and awaited the return of electric service from Tropical Storm Isaias late this week, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued a dire warning for the rest of this hurricane season:

“Atmospheric and oceanic conditions are primed to fuel storm development in the Atlantic, leading to what could be an “extremely active” season,” they said in their annual August update to the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, initially issued in May.

Updated 6 a.m., Aug. 5

As of 5:16 a.m. Aug. 5, 320,769 of PSEG-Long Island’s customers had not yet had their power restored, about 37.6 percent of the utility’s customers.

“Tropical Storm Isaias was one of the strongest storms to reach our area in years, causing extensive damage and power outages,” said PSEG-Long Island in a Tuesday evening email to customers. “The storm has also affected communications systems, creating challenges in getting information to you. We know this has also affected your ability to reach us and we thank you for your patience.”

“As we continue to work through these issues with Verizon and other partners, rest assured that more than 2,000 personnel, including crews brought in from off-island, are actively working on electric system repairs to restore power as quickly as possible,” they added. “This work will continue non-stop, around the clock.”

Updated 9 p.m., Aug. 4

PSEG-Long Island is currently reporting that 339,872 customers are without power as of 8:16 p.m., down from around 368,000 earlier this evening.

As of 8 p.m., the storm was near Rutland, Vermont, heading north-northeast at 40 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center. The tropical storm warning for Long Island has been lifted.

At the height of the storm, storm watchers in Suffolk County reported wind gusts in the upper range for tropical storms, including an observer in Orient who reported a gust at 64 miles per hour, and in Mecox Bay at 54 miles per hour. An observer at the Fishers Island airport reported a 58 mile per hour gust and an observer on Great Gull Island clocked a gust at 73 miles per hour. The highest sustained winds reported to the National Weather Service were 54 miles per hour at Farmingdale Airport, reported by an automated surface observing system at the airport.

Updated 7 p.m. Aug. 4

As of the National Hurricane Center’s 5 p.m. briefing on Isaias, “widespread tropical storm conditions are expected in the tropical storm warning area in eastern New York, Long Island and southern New England, with wind gusts to hurricane force possible. These winds could cause significant tree damage and power outages.”

We’re hearing widespread reports of power outages and downed tree limbs and wires, particularly along the line of a strong thunderstorm that prompted a tornado advisory earlier this afternoon, in North Sea/Noyac, Cutchogue and Southold.

“Strong winds + gusts continue across our service territory causing downed trees, branches + wires affecting approx 368,000 of our 1.1m customers,” according to a 6 p.m. statement from PSEG-Long Island. “Tropical Storm Isaias was one of the strongest storms to hit our service territory in recent years. Some outages could last for an extended period. Power has been restored to 36,000 customers. We remind you, our crews are unable to work in bucket trucks to make repairs until wind speeds fall to non-hazardous levels. As soon as it is safe, our crews work 24/7 to restore power.”

Updated: 2:30 p.m. Aug. 4

NWS has lifted the tornado warning. “The storm which prompted the warning has weakened below severe limits, and no longer appears capable of producing a tornado,” according to a briefing from the NWS at 2:20 p.m. “Therefore, the warning will be allowed to expire.” The East End remains under a tornado watch until 4 p.m.

The storm believed to be capable of producing a tornado over Robins Island in the Peconic Bay at 2:12 p.m.
The storm believed to be capable of producing a tornado over Robins Island in the Peconic Bay at 2:12 p.m.

Updated: 2:10 p.m., Aug. 4:

At 2:04 p.m., a severe thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado was located 10 miles south of Southampton, moving north at 65 miles per hour. Radar indicated rotation, according to The National Weather Service has issued a tornado warning through 2:30 p.m.

According to NWS, areas that could be affected include Southold, Clinton, Old Saybrook, Southhampton, Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, Westbrook, Shelter Island, Greenport, Shinnecock Hills, Peconic, Noyack, North Haven, Fenwick and Orient.

As of the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. briefing, the center of the storm was 65 miles west of New York City, with maximum sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, moving to the north-northeast at about 40 miles per hour. Tropical storm force winds extend about 140 miles out from the center of the storm.

Updated 8 a.m. Aug. 4:

As of 5 a.m. Tuesday, Isaias was about 15 miles southeast of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, moving north-northeast at 28 miles per hour with maximum sustained winds of 70 mph. Tropical storm force winds, which extend about 140 miles out from the center of the storm, are expected to reach our area by mid-day.

Original Story Follows:

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone gave an overview Monday of what to expect from Tropical Storm Isaias.

Tropical Storm Isaias, which is expected to briefly strengthen to a hurricane and hit the Carolinas Monday evening, is expected to hit Long Island as a tropical storm Tuesday afternoon.

The storm is likely to provide a “dry run for what could be a very active hurricane season,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone as he briefed the public on the county’s emergency plans Monday afternoon.

All of Long Island is under a tropical storm warning issued by the National Weather Service Monday, which means tropical storm force winds are expected within 36 hours.

As of the National Hurricane Center’s 2 p.m. Monday advisory, the storm was about 115 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, with top winds at 70 miles per hour — just shy of the 74 miles per hour that would make it a hurricane. It is expected to make landfall in northeastern South Carolina and southern North Carolina as a Category 1 hurricane this evening before weakening as it moves north on Tuesday.

Mr. Bellone said the storm is expected to make landfall on Long Island Tuesday afternoon, with a 50 to 60 percent chance of tropical storm force winds between 39 and 55 miles per hour, dumping 3 to 4 inches of rain across the bulk of the county, with just 1 to 2 inches of rain expected on the East End.

But coastal flooding remains a bit of an uncertainty here until the track of the storm is better known — as currently forecast, the storm is slated to track northward just to the west of the East End, as did Tropical Storm Fay, which slammed New York City on July 10 but did minimal damage here.

The National Hurricane Center’s 11 a.m. Monday projection of Isaias’ path.

With a full moon Aug. 3, tides were already at the high point in the monthly cycle Monday, and Mr. Bellone said the storm surge could add two to three feet of coastal flooding with Tuesday evening’s high tides, between 9 p.m. and midnight. He added that emergency evacuations may be necessary in coastal, low-lying areas.

Here are Tuesday’s times of high tides across the East End:

August 4
Plum Gut Harbor: 11 a.m., 11:20 p.m.
Montauk Harbor: 10:08 a.m., 10:28 p.m.
Greenport: 11:37 a.m., 11:57 p.m.
Mattituck Inlet: 12:11 a.m., 12:40 p.m.
Sag Harbor: 11:32 a.m., 11:52 p.m.
New Suffolk: 12:34 a.m., 12:59 p.m.
South Jamesport: 12:41 a.m., 1:06 p.m.
Shinn. Bay Entrance: 10:19 a.m., 10:33 p.m.
Shinn. Inlet: 8:28 a.m., 8:42 p.m.

Mr. Bellone also said to expect 10 to 15 feet of breaking surf along the ocean Tuesday afternoon. The National Weather Service has also warning since Sunday of rip currents at Atlantic Ocean beaches expected through Tuesday night.

Mr. Bellone said the county’s emergency operations center has been operational for months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will be operating straight through the storm, putting together equipment like pumps and chainsaws, and coordinating response between local and state emergency agencies.

He urged residents to sign up to get text message updates from Suffolk County’s Fire, Rescue & Emergency Services (FRES), online here, and to text the word REGISTER to PSEG-Long Island’s text number at 773454. If your power goes out, you can then text the word OUT to that number to get updates on progress toward restoring your power.

“If you are outside during the storm, take caution,” he said. “Stay out of flooded streets.”

Mr. Bellone said residents would be smart to update their emergency plans in light of what is anticipated to be a very active hurricane season.

“If we do see storms of significant intensity this year, hurricanes that make landfall here, it will be far different than anything we’ve seen before,” he said. “We know this fall we will still be confronting this public health crisis at time when kids are back in school, when flu season is upon us as well.”

This is the first hurricane season in recorded history that nine tropical storms have formed before August 1 — two of them, Martha and Bertha, even formed in May, before the official start of hurricane season June 1. 

Western Long Island was in the crosshairs of Tropical Storm Fay, which made landfall over New York City July 10, flooding subway stations, downing trees and power lines and dropping several inches of rain. Six people drowned while swimming in the ocean in New Jersey, Long Beach (Long Island) and Rhode Island during the storm.

Back in May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center predicted a busier than usual Atlantic hurricane season, with 13 to 19 named storms and three to six major hurricanes. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms.

NOAA issued a La Niña watch July 9, warning that a 50 to 55 percent chance of La Niña creating cooler water conditions in the Pacific Ocean could suppress an Atlantic El Niño, leading to more frequent and stronger Atlantic hurricanes this fall.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is urging the public to take the time this year to take emergency plans seriously, in part because the pandemic has potential to wreak havoc in emergency shelters.

“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from Covid-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more,” says Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA. “Natural disasters won’t wait, so I encourage you to keep Covid-19 in mind when revising or making your plan for you and your loved ones, and don’t forget your pets. An easy way to start is to download the FEMA app today.”

Some of the most important aspects of a family hurricane plan include determining with your family how you should communicate or rendezvous with each other if normal modes of communication go down, deciding on a safe place for the family to shelter during a storm, having a go bag ready with clean clothes (socks and underwear are a must!) and protective gear, medications, important documents, food, water, hygiene and first aid supplies. 

If you’re a homeowner, now’s a good time to take stock of your insurance policies, including current hurricane deductibles, and reevaluate whether you may need flood insurance. 

This is a good time of year to keep your car’s gas tank topped off and make sure you have any emergency supplies on hand that you may need later. As the pandemic has brutally taught us, shortages happen quickly when panic buying begins. 

FEMA’s ready.gov website is filled with more tips for planning ahead so that you can safely ride out any disaster.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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