By late Monday afternoon, River and Roots Community Garden member Len Van Vliet posted on his Facebook page that his eggplant in the garden were underwater.
That was just the beginning of troubles for the garden, which is ten feet from the bank of the Peconic River. By the time the flooding had gone down, a watermark three-feet high on the garden’s shed marked the high point of Hurricane Sandy’s Monday night tide.
A peak inside the shed Thursday morning revealed the once neatly organized shelves full of buckets of tools were now strewn across the floor. Most of the wooden raised garden beds had floated up from around the dirt and were clustered in corners of the garden, where they’d been pushed by the tide. Nearly all the vegetables had been taken away by the tide or lay wilted in the ground.
A large evergreen tree that had stood at the edge of the garden had fallen over across the beds. By 10:30 a.m., Peconic Paddler owner Jim Dreeben was hard at work cutting up the tree.
“We are very lucky, nothing that can’t be fixed,” said garden co-founder Amy Davidson in an email Thursday morning.
Ms. Davidson said after the tree is removed, garden members will start moving their beds back and cleaning up the debris.
Volunteers will be working in the garden Saturday, November 3 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and on Sunday, November 4 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
“This is a situation that calls out for our garden community to come together, get down to work, and put the garden to rights. I cannot do it without you,” said Ms. Davidson in an email to gardeners on Thursday. “I know that many of you are dealing with lack of electricity and yard clean up of your own. Please take care of yourself and your families, we’ll see you when have your homes back in order.”
The Times/Review editorial team will continue its live coverage Tuesday as the North Fork begins to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
To follow along with our live coverage click to open the blog below.
As the normally tranquil Long Island Sound was whipped up into what looked like the Atlantic on a bad day, the homes lining the shore on Creek Road in Wading River appeared in perilous danger.
Wind gusts made it difficult to stand Monday morning at Wading River Beach as Hurricane Sandy roared toward the East Coast.
Later in the day, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter worried some of the homes could be facing catastrophic damage as the water pounded the shoreline.
As day broke Tuesday and the heavy winds gave way to clear skies, relieved residents returned home to find their houses spared of any major damage.
“I was afraid to open this door,” said Lucille Ciano, a 30-year resident of Creek Road. “I was afraid to see.”
Siding from her neighbor’s roof blew off onto her property and some railings broke on her deck.
“Downstairs the house is fine,” she said. “We were lucky.”
The storm still caused major erosion as about 10-15 feet of a dune was wiped away. Flooding was still an issue Tuesday morning on the street and debris lined the beach. A deer carcass ended up only a few feet from the playground.
Linda Heller, who’s lived on Creek Road for 16 years, returned home to discover that so much land had been wiped away behind her home, the cesspool was exposed.
“I was very surprised to say the least,” she said. “You don’t expect to see your cesspool.”
Ms. Heller tried to ride out the storm from her home. But about midway through, her son, who’s a police officer, convinced her to come to his home nearby in Wading River.
She said it was the worst storm she’s experienced.
Ms. Ciano said Hurricane Sandy wasn’t as bad as the infamous Nor’easter from 1991, dubbed The Perfect Storm.
“This place was decimated,” she said.
Ms. Ciano said she could already see the water beginning to get rough early Sunday. She wasn’t about to stick around for the rest.
“I left about 2 o’clock,” she said. “I figured, what’s the sense? Not that I was afraid. But I figured what is to be is to be. It’s only making your stomach turn. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Tuesday he wants to suspend building fees for any storm-related repair work.
The town was in the process of devising a method by which to notify homeowners of this policy.
“I want to get that word out to residents, that the building department is not your obstacle and we will do whatever we can to help you,” Mr. Walter said.
The supervisor met with department heads Tuesday afternoon in Riverhead Town Hall to assess the damage from the storm and devise a plan to handle it.
The town is doing an inventory of damages to town property in hopes of being reimbursed.
The storm left the entire Riverfront parking lot in downtown Riverhead under water Monday afternoon and night, and had areas in South Jamesport under water up to the railroad bridge, said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller.
The chief said most of the areas south of Peconic Bay Boulevard were flooded.
The high waters had receded in most areas by Tuesday morning, although some areas, like parts of Peconic Bay Boulevard, still were flooded the following day.
Sandy also left more than 11,000 Riverhead Town residents and more than 940,000 Suffolk County residents without power Tuesday.
Winds from Sandy, which reached 90 mph in some areas, also broke the locally famous Riverhead Raceway Indian statue in half.
Despite this, officials says Sandy didn’t turn out as bad as they anticipated.
“We’re in better shape than we were with Hurricane Irene,” Chief Hegermiller said, referring to the hurricane that struck Long Island last year.
He said the impact of the Sandy was more flood-related than wind-related.
In Wading River, “90 percent of the homes on Creek Road were underwater” and there was erosion to beaches and bluffs along the Long Island Sound, including two homes on Lewin Drive that lost about 20 feet of bluff, and are now only about 20 feet from the bluff, said Mr. Walter, a Wading River resident.
A shelter set up at Riverhead High School had 375 people in it at the height of the storm on Monday, but by Tuesday morning, there were less than 20, officials said.
The town senior center made 2,100 meals in 36 hours for the people in the shelter, Mr. Walter said.
“The senior center was amazing,” he said Tuesday, adding the ttown hopes to get everybody out of the shelter on Tuesday so school can open on Wednesday.
The Suffolk Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also operated a pet shelter at Suffolk Community College in Northampton which had about 19 animals and 44 pet owners staying there, officials said.
The American Red Cross, which ran the shelter during Hurricane Irene last year, brought mostly snacks this year, and it was their cots and equipment that was used at the shelter.
Originally, Riverhead High School was not planned to be a shelter for this storm.
Riverhead Beverage donated 40 cases of water, and Paster Jerry Halpin of North Shore Christian Church on Kroemer Avenue brought volunteers and additional food, Mr. Walter said.
The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance was busy with calls and with helping out at the evacuation center, and the Riverhead Fire Department also was kept busy with calls, including one in which their brush truck got stuck while answering a call on Overlook Drive in Aquebogue, officials said.
“Where we we be without these volunteers?” Councilman John Dunleavy asked.
Mr. Dunleavy also expressed disappointment with people who didn’t heed evacuation notices who could have jeopardized the safety of volunteers who had to come rescue them later.
“These people don’t realize they’re putting volunteers at risk,” Mr. Dunleavy said.
One man reportedly tried to climb a tree to remove a downed wire from it, and others were seen walking in water near Iron Pier beach while power lines swayed above them in high winds, officials said.
“If those lines came down, they were sardines,” said town engineer Ken Testa, who witnessed the incident.
Mr. Walter said a driver on Iron Pier beach got stuck on a log in mud there, when a good Samaritan stopped to help him.
Once the driver got traction, “the moron in the truck” floored his gas pedal in reverse, and nearly ran over the man who helped him, he said.
Scroll through our 24/7 storm live blog for more hurricane photos.
The Riverhead News-Review will be publishing photos as Hurricane Sandy makes its way to the North Fork. Check back frequently over the next few days and feel free to share your photos, too.
The News-Review will be publishing videos from the Riverhead area and the rest of the North Fork during Hurricane Sandy.
Check back frequently over the next few days and feel free to email links of your videos, too, and we’ll post them here.
The winds were intense at Wading River Beach about 10:15 a.m. Friday:
Downtown Riverhead about 11 a.m. Monday:
Wading River Beach:
Founders Landing on Southold Bay:
Riverhead School District schools are closed for Monday, Tuesday.
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.
Tanger Outlets will be closing at 5 p.m. today.
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.
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.
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.
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.