Schools closed Monday, Tuesday; HS now a shelter

10/28/2012 11:45 AM |

MICHAEL WHITE PHOTO | Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller says coastal flooding, not rainfall, will be the larger issue today.

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SUNDAY

2 p.m.

Riverhead School District schools are closed for Monday, Tuesday.

1:15 p.m.

Rivehead Town officials say they have plenty of volunteers now to operate the town shelter at Riverhead High School. They do not need more volunteers.

12:45 p.m.

Tanger Outlets will be closing at 5 p.m. today.

12:20 p.m.

The Red Cross has now designated Riverhead Town as a “secondary shelter,” meaning if things get real bad the Red Cross will send resources to Riverhead.

So the town is just going to open and run the shelter itself.

“As is always the case with Riverhead, we’re going to stand together and do it,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Police Chief Hegermiller said a storm surge is predicted to reach between 6 and 11 feet, with 25-foot waves on the ocean.

“Its all being pushed up into our pocket, in the bays, in the sound,” he said. “And on top off all that we have the full moon, so there’s going to be a lot of water out there.”

Councilman George Gabrielsen said the good news is the rainfall prediction has fallen to about only five to six inches and the water table is very low. He said a pond on his property that rises with the water table is dry. That, and the ground is soft, not frozen, which helps with absorption. The big problem is coastal flooding for folks living near the Sound, bays and creeks.

Mobile home parks are not facing mandatory evacuation, but officials suggest those living in mobile homes that are not strapped down seek shelter elsewhere, with friends, family, etc. Or the town shelter.

The supervisor emphasizes the town shelter should be a last resort, especially without the help of the Red Cross.

Noon

The town will operate a shelter that will open at 4 p.m. at Riverhead High School. Call 727-4500 then press 0 for information.

Garbage pickup will not be cancelled Monday, but Supervisor Sean Walter does not expect carters to be on the roads. He’s asking residents to not leave their cans outside.

Residents in need of transportation to the shelter at Riverhead High School can call 727-4500 and press 0.

Chief David Hegermiller says coastal flooding, not rainfall, is expected to be the big problem.

11:45 a.m.

Mandatory evacuations will be ordered for low-lying coastal areas in Riverhead Town about 4 p.m. Sunday, when Riverhead High School will open up as a shelter. These areas include Creek Road in Wading River, areas south of Peconic Bay Boulevard from Jamesport through Aquebogue, and other areas, such as along the Sound in Baiting Hollow.

The town will not be issuing a map.

“People who live in these coastal flood areas know who they are,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

As of now, the town said it will be opening up the shelter and operating it without the support of the American Red Cross.

Mr. Walter said he wanted to make it clear that the school will be the only shelter open and that residents should not show up at the medical center, fire stations, senior or community centers.

The police department will be issuing a ‘reverse 911′ phone call to residents in the mandatory evacuation areas. Police Chief David Hegermiller says the system is called ‘Code Red,’ but Mr. Walter emphasizes that the system is not perfect, so that doesn’t mean you don’t have to leave if you don’t get a call.

“For residents who live in a coastal flood zone, they know who they are,” he said.

School and town officials said all Riverhead schools will “likely close” tomorrow.

Mr. Walter said Town Hall will likely be open Monday, but will close at noon.

SATURDAY

As of now, Riverhead High School is not designated as an American Red Cross shelter for Hurricane Sandy, which is expected to bring eight-foot high storm surges on Long Island Sound and sustained winds of between 40 and 60 mph with gusts of up to 80 mph on Monday, according to Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller.

With Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter, the chief briefed local emergency service providers on the storm during a meeting in Town Hall Saturday afternoon.

Mr. Walter said he believes the Riverhead shelter may be needed, and the town will make a decision by 11 a.m. on Sunday as to whether it will request the Red Cross operate a shelter at Riverhead High School, as it did during Hurricane Irene last year.

The Red Cross designated Hampton Bays High School, Eastport-South Manor High School and high schools in the Brentwood and Sachem districts as shelters for Sandy, which some are calling “Frankenstorm.”

“I’m more pro-opening of Riverhead High School as a shelter,” Mr. Walter said. “We’re not sure where this storm is going, it could just be a low level tropical storm. But relying on Hampton Bays as a shelter is not making me confident.”

Town officials are concerned that people who need shelter may start showing up at the high school anyway, just assuming it’s a shelter.

Mr. Walter said it would be a town option to open the Riverhead High School as a shelter, but that the Red Cross has said it believes it can handle evacuees from Riverhead in the Hampton Bays and Eastport-South Manor shelters.

According to Chief Hegermiller, the Red Cross is part of the town’s emergency plan and they would have to operate the Riverhead shelter if the town requests it.

Mr. Walter said he is “really concerned” about relying on the out-of-town shelters to serve Riverhead residents.

Riverhead High School is designated in the Red Cross’s the second round of shelters, according to Riverhead school superintendent Nancy Carney.

According to the National Weather Service, “The center of Hurricane Sandy will move parallel to the southeast coast of the United States through the weekend. Sandy is a very large tropical cyclone with tropical storm force winds extending outward up to 450 miles. The latest forecast indicates a turn to the northwest by early next week, with direct impacts expected for the Mid-Atlantic and/or Northeast United States.”

For the East End, the NWS predicts heavy rain and high winds by Monday, and possibly starting Sunday night. The heavy rains and high winds are predicted to extend into Tuesday, with lighter rain and less wind possible Wednesday.

Officials say the brunt of the storm is expected on Monday and Tuesday.

“LIPA urges customers to prepare for possible multi-day outages,” the Long Island Power Authority said in a press release. “Storm safety tips, power outage information, and preparedness tips are available for our customers at http://www.lipower.org/stormcenter.”

As for evacuations, Mr. Walter said he is leaning toward issuing the same evacuation notice that was issued during Irene, which would require mandatory evacuations for all people living in mobile homes that are not strapped down, and non-mandatory evacuations in low-lying areas that could become flooded, such as Creek Road in Wading River.

“Most of the people in low-lying areas know when to get out,” Mr. Walter said.

While it’s not mandatory to evacuate low-lying areas, Chief Hegermiller recommends it.

“People in low lying areas should leave by tomorrow before darkness,” he said. “Go stay with family or friends.”

In Irene, Peconic Bay Medical Center also provided nursing services at the Riverhead High School shelter.

Hospital President and CEO Andrew Mitchell said the facility probably could not do that at a Hampton Bays or Eastport-South Manor shelter. He said the hospital already has many patients and has a limited capacity to take in more.

The hospitalput extra generators in place to prepare for the storm, he said.

Suffolk County announced Saturday that the Hampton Bays, Sachem East (Farmingville) and Brentwood High Schools would open as shelters at 8 a.m. on Sunday, and that Suffolk Community College’s Eastern Campus in Northampton, along with the Brentwood Rec Center on Third Avenue in Brentwood, will open as pet friendly shelters at 8 a.m. on Sunday.

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