We have our very own ‘Icy Hollow’

09/02/2010 12:00 AM |

We at Times/Review have, from time to time, accused Newsday and Cablevision’s News12 Long Island of “stealing” stories from us — that is, reporting, without attribution, news that appeared first and exclusively in our publications.

So I suppose it’s only fair that I’m about to “steal” a story from them. Well, actually, it was a “Long Island Diary” column by Newsday’s Phil Mintz, which, in turn, was based on a News12 broadcast.

The title of his diary entry was “The Elusive Legend of Icy Hollow,” and it concerned “a low-lying valley about 1 1/2 miles long, which lies between the old RCA property on the west and William Floyd Parkway on the east” where temperatures are routinely significantly lower than elsewhere on Long Island. The spot on News12’s weather map looked “suspiciously like the Brookhaven community known as Ridge,” according to Mr. Mintz.

When I first conducted a Web search for “Long Island’s Icy Hollow,” I fully expected to find information on a location significantly eastward of Ridge — say about 15 miles farther east, not far from the intersection of Routes 104 (Quogue-Riverhead Road) and 27 (Sunrise Highway). And that’s because, I would assert, the East End has its own “Icy Hollow,” immediately south of Flanders and parallel to the portion of the Paumanok Path that runs east of Riverhead.

This theory of mine dates back at least 20 years to a time when I began playing indoor tennis during the winter months at the so-called “bubble” in Westhampton. It was then I noticed, on the drive home to Orient, that the exterior thermometer on my car routinely dipped five degrees or more when I passed though this particular Icy Hollow. There was no apparent explanation. There were no significant changes in elevation, and the area in question was basically equidistant from the Atlantic Ocean and Peconic Bay. And yet, invariably, if it was 32 degrees in Westhampton and on the North Fork, it was 27 or so in Icy Hollow East.

Flash forward two decades to Monday night of this week, when the former Joan Giger Walker and I were driving home after spending a day at the beach in Westhampton with our daughter and grandchildren. As we approached Icy Hollow East, the car’s exterior thermometer read 78 degrees. But as we made the left turn from Old Riverhead Road onto Route 104, it dipped to 77. Then 76, 75, 74 and finally 73 degrees. A drop of five degrees in less than a mile! If that doesn’t qualify as Long Island’s Icy Hollow, what does?

And then, of course, there was the reversal as we crossed the Peconic River on Route 105. The thermometer went back up to 77 by the time we reached Route 25, and all the way up to 80 when we hit Cutchogue on Route 48 (the North Road).

As it turns out, I have not been hallucinating. On Tuesday morning, I called meteorologist Pete Wichrowski at the U.S. Weather Service at Brookhaven Lab, and he confirmed that the area near Gabreski Airport is, in fact, a weather anomaly. And here’s why:

In the area in question, there’s a slight dip in elevation — Long Island’s version of a valley, I suppose — that captures cooler air, particularly when winds are light. Couple that with the fact that the soil is sandy in the Pine Barrens, where there is an absence of the ambient heat normally associated with the suburbs.

“We always see [the dip in temperature] there, almost every night,” Mr. Wichrowski said. Gabreski is, on occasion, one of the coolest places on the regional weather map, he said, including such unlikely locales as Vermont and New Hampshire.

So, then, does the East End have its own Icy Hollow? Although Mr. Wichrowski says he’s never heard the term Icy Hollow before, he can confirm its existence.

“It’s true,” the weatherman said.