2011 Top Story No. 3: Irene spares Riverhead her worst, days after quake

GRANT PARPAN FILE PHOTO An electric wire down on Mill Road in Riverhead during Hurricane Irene.

Some North Forkers thought they were going crazy when they felt, for many the first time in their lives, tremors from an earthquake centered in Virginia Aug. 23.

The quake, with a magnitude of 5.8, was the strongest to hit the East Coast in 67 years and lasted from 10 to 15 seconds.

Two days later, National Weather Service alerts read that Hurricane Irene, then a powerful Category 3 storm, had “Long Island in its crosshairs.” Residents along Long Island’s coastlines and in NYC were being told to evacuate or face the storm alone; rescue workers would not be putting themselves in grave danger, officials said.

Hundreds packed the Red Cross shelter in Riverhead and/or dropped their pets off at the Suffolk SPCA shelter in Northampton. Old-timers recalled tales from the devastating Hurricane of 1938, which made landfall in Westhampton Beach. But Irene was downgraded when it hit land near the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and was categorized as a tropical storm when it finally hit Suffolk County.

It took down trees and caused some minor flooding on the North Fork, but Irene spared us her worst, as our headline read. LIPA did struggle for more than a week restoring power to its customers.

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