Although the worst of Irene’s wrath is behind us, winds are expected to stay about 25 mph with gusts of 50 mph expected until 5 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.
Motorists are urged to use caution as there are reports of downed utility poles and trees throughout Riverhead Town, especially in Wading River. Several traffic lights are reportedly out and there are some road closures in town as well.
Peconic Bay Boulevard is closed near Bay Woods and by Laurel Lane. Hallock Street, North Country Road at Farm Road, Fox Chaser Place, Church Lane, Old River Road and Northville Turnpike between Union Avenue and Ostrander Avenue are also closed.
A reader also reported Soundshore Road in Riverhead was impassable due to fallen trees Sunday afternoon.
Riverhead Town parks and beaches, as well as Riverhead Town Justice Court will be closed tomorrow.
Nearly 60 percent of Riverhead Town residents were still experiencing some sort of power outage Sunday afternoon, according to a map on the Long Island Power Authority’s website.
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Only about two inches of rain was reported in Riverhead, according to the Weather Service.
“We made out very well,” said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller.
“The major problems were trees falling on power lines, downed utility lines and traffic lights without power.”
There still were a lot of people without power Sunday afternoon throughout town.
Two of the major concerns prior to the storm were flooding in low lying areas and mobile homes, which can be damaged by high winds in they’re not strapped down.
“Flooding, I don’t think, became a major issue,” the chief said. “Which is great.”
There also were no reports of damage to mobile homes in the town, he said.
Just about everyone had left the Red Cross shelter at Riverhead High School shelter as of 1 p.m.
Supervisor Sean Walter told the group staying there that a bus would arrive to take them back to their homes at 4 p.m. but most had left on their own, Councilman George Gabrielsen said. At its peak the shelter had just under 300 people, according to Kent Terchunian, the American Red Cross coordinator at the Riverhead shelter.
After days of expecting the worst, the storm was a bit easier to handle than officials had anticipated.
“Based on the forecast, I was expecting more of a Hurricane Gloria,” Chief Hegermiller said. “But you always have to err on the side of caution. I would rather be in this situation than not doing enough planning.”
Gloria was a Category two storm, and Irene was predicted to be a weaker Category One, but ended up as an even weaker tropical storm by the time it hit Long Island.
Chief Hegermiller said the highest wind measured on Long Island was 71 mph in Center Moriches, and Hurricanes must have winds of at least 74 mph.
There was flooding in the Peconic River parking lot, which often floods in storms much less powerful than hurricanes, the chief said.
People are still urged to stay off the roads Sunday afternoon, the chief said. For the most part, they were complying, as most of the big stores in town, including Walmart, Kmart, Target, and Best Buy, were closed.
Most of the stores in downtown Riverhead also were closed and there were few people or cars on the street there Sunday.
Some residents felt the storm didn’t live up to the hype.
“Honestly, I didn’t think it was that bad until I woke up and started riding around on my,” said Rodney Rollins of Riverhead, as he took pictures of a downed tree on Northville Turnpike. “There were a lot of big trees that had fallen down.”
“I thought it was not that bad,” his friend Elwood Lamb said. “In certain areas, the power outages were pretty loud – just the sounds of it, and the popping- and it scared people. But it really wasn’t that big a storm.”
North Fork farmers said they also fared better than expected during the storm.
“We really dodged a bullet out here,” Ron Goerler of Jamesport Vineyards told News 12.
Additional reporting by Tim Gannon