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08/31/11 10:26pm
08/31/2011 10:26 PM

SAMANTHA BRIX PHOTO | John Bruckner, President for Long Island Electric Transmission and Distribution Services for National Grid, and Michael Hervey, Long Island Power Authority Chief Operating Officer at a press conference Wednesday in Hicksville.

Riverhead’s nearly 4,000 still-powerless residents might not have seen many Long Island Power Authority trucks this week, but workers are out there doing their jobs, LIPA Chief Operating Officer Michael Hervey said at a press conference in Hicksville Wednesday.

Mr. Hervey said that while fixing what has been the third-worst power outages a Long Island utility company has sustained since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, workers must rebuild lines from the power source, which would explain why trucks weren’t all over the roads right after the storm.

“We have to rebuild the circuit from its source,” Mr. Hervey said. “It’s a very systematic effort.”

More than a half million customers were effected by power outages after Tropical Storm Irene downed trees and utility poles across the Island Sunday.

About 20 percent of Riverhead area residents were still not connected as of Wednesday afternoon. Calverton has headed the list of power outages in Riverhead Town, with 44 percent of households and businesses having no power Wednesday, and in Wading River, 40 percent of people were powerless as of 2 p.m., according to LIPA’s power outage map, which is continually updated.

The hamlets of Riverhead, Northville, Aquebogue, Jamesport and Riverside in Riverhead Town, and Flanders, Riverside and Northampton in neighboring Southampton Town were faring much better, according to the LIPA figures. Jamesport saw its share of outages since Sunday but as of Wednesday afternoon just 64 power outages were reported from 1,350 customers.

A time line has not yet been set for specific communities, but 90,000 customers have been restored in the past 24 hours, Mr. Hervey said at the press conference, adding that some 90 percent of LIPA customers should have power by midnight Friday, a prediction LIPA officials first made Monday.

Roughly 600,000 customers were without power at the outages peak on Sunday, and many people here and elsewhere have complained that LIPA has been inattentive — and almost impossible to get in touch with — throughout.

Mr. Hervey said LIPA walk-in customer service centers have been closed since the storm but “on the web, we’re still open for business.” Customers service representatives can also be reached at 1-800-490-0075.

“There will be increased numbers of what we call ‘intentional outages’ ­­— outages that are required for crew safety,” Mr. Hervey said. “Don’t be surprised if there are some short-duration outages in your area. That’s a normal part of the restoration.”

Locally, residents across town were making do using generators and getting help from neighbors.

Judy Gnatowski of the Lakewood Park retirement community in Calverton said she had just purchased $200 worth of Omaha Steaks and did a big shopping trip at BJ’S Wholesale last week before learning the storm was going to hit.

She’s since plugged her refrigerator into her next-door neighbor’s outlet in the mobile home park off River Road. Her neighbor still has power, she said.

“I’m charging my phone in my car,” Ms. Gnatowski said. “I’m going to my daughter’s for showers. I toasted bagels on the barbecue.”

She said the biggest threat from the prolonged power outages in her community is the potential for food loss.

“All of us here are on pensions and Social Security,” she said.

Some in Jamesport were taking the power outages in stride.

“Everybody here is looking out for each other,” said Jim McEntee, 49, of Vista Court, which was almost completely without power through Tuesday. “I’m just glad nobody got hurt.”

Mr. McEntee, who had served with the U.S. Navy’s Disaster Recovery Team in the mid-1980s, said his biggest concern was keeping his multiple sclerosis medicine cool, restocking it once a day with ice — though he said ice was hard to come by Sunday morning.

“That’s my primary concern,” he said of the medicine. “The stuff costs a ton and I stocked up before the storm hit.”

But as the each day goes by without juice, Bayview Inn & Restaurant owner Bob Patchell of Mattituck loses more money.

“We’d be full this week” he said Tuesday afternoon. “This is the last big week of summer.”

The building lost power about 5 a.m. Sunday, he said, and has also been without cable, internet or phone.

If the outages last through Friday, he said he could expect to lose between $30,000 and $40,000 in business. He said the company has already lost about $3,000 in food, though some of the pricier steaks were taken to his chef’s house for refrigeration.

He said the restaurant was “dead, dead” Saturday before the storm, a night he would typically serve about 120 people.

“We did maybe 10 covers,” he said.

In Flanders, Dottie Minnick was using a portable 4,200 kilowatt solar-powered generator for sssnecessities. The set up, which retails for about $11,000, didn’t cost Ms. Minnick a cent to rent — she’s an employee of Go Solar in Aquebogue.

The generator works continually in sunlight and six to eights hours after dusk, she said.

And her neighbors have noticed how quiet the machine is compared with noisy diesel-powered generators.
“People have already been asking me about it,” she said. “It’s perfect for this.”

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08/31/11 5:00pm

In an effort to help restore power in Riverhead Town, the town’s Henry Pfeiffer building in Calverton will be offered to LIPA as a staging area for equipment and vehicles following Tropical Storm Irene, Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said Wednesday during a press conference on storm cleanup efforts.

The Town Board is expected to approve the measure Thursday at a special meeting, he said. LIPA will not be charged for use of the site, and the agreement applies only to this storm, although Mr. Walter said the town hopes to put similar agreements in place for future storms.

“Right now, we’re primarily focused with cleanup and LIPA,” he said. “As far as LIPA is concerned, we in Town Hall have been in contact with them constantly. We are not getting the type of response that you would expect, even at our level.”

Mr. Walter said the town offered the use of the rec center at the Calverton Enterprise Park to LIPA last week but LIPA declined, instead using East Hampton Airport and Calabro Airport in Brookhaven Town. Since then, the offer was extended again and LIPA informally accepted, he said.

“Does that mean that we will get better coordination from them?” Mr. Walter asked rhetorically. “I don’t know, but at least we can drive up and see them and find out what’s going on because we know where their base of operations will be.”

Police Chief David Hegermiller clarified that the EPCAL site is not intended as a place where residents can go to make complaints.
LIPA initially had about 10,000 Riverhead customers out of power Sunday night and had cut that down to about 4,900 by Wednesday, officials said. Chief Hegermiller said the winds were too high for LIPA crews to do anything Sunday night, so the worked they’ve done to cut the number of power outages in half has been done in just over two days.

“I will say that as far as their storm prep for this event, I — and I think the board and the people up here — would give them an F,” Mr. Walter said at Wednesday’s press conference, where he was joined by Chief Hegermiller, Highway Superintendent George Woodson and councilmen John Dunleavy and Jim Wooten.

“But at this point, they are working and doing the best they can and I would ask the residents for their patience,” the supervisor added.

He thinks LIPA was “a little gun-shy” because of criticism they received for spending too much money on preparations for Hurricane Earl last year, which turned out to be a minor storm.

Mr. Walter said he thinks LIPA did the right thing in planning ahead for Earl.

“Irene was not even a hurricane,” he said. “Lord have mercy, if we get hit with a [Category] 1 or 2 hurricane.”

Mr. Woodson said one problem his department initially experienced was that when trees fell on power lines, the highway department couldn’t do anything until LIPA arrived, and LIPA couldn’t do anything until the highway department arrived.

He said in the future, LIPA and highway department employees should be stationed in the same building so they can address trees that have fallen on power lines at the same time. Mr. Woodson’s crews have been working 12-hour days since Monday to remove downed trees and open up roads, he said. They also will be collecting storm debris placed at curbsides.

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08/29/11 9:06am
08/29/2011 9:06 AM

Irene, which hit the area as a weakened tropical storm, has come and gone without any serious injuries in Riverhead. But she did leave hundreds of downed trees, broken utility poles and nearly 10,000 Riverhead Town residents still without power. Check out photos from our readers surveying the damage around town.

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Reader John Waggoner sent us this photo of the flooded Peconic Riverfront.

08/28/11 3:32pm
08/28/2011 3:32 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Steve Burns walks his dogs Tashia and Zeus along a flooded section of Green Street in South Jamesport.

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.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Highway worker John Appicello uses a front end loader to remove tree limbs from South Jamesport Avenue.

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.

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Additional reporting by Tim Gannon

08/28/11 9:46am

Parking lots are flooded, trees and utility poles are down and hundreds of thousands experience power outages as Hurricane Irene makes her presence known on the North Fork. Check out our photos below and be sure to send your own pics to [email protected].

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GRANT PARPAN PHOTO | A downed tree fell from the King Kullen parking lot in Wading River into the Hess parking lot Sunday. Another downed tree is blocking the northbound lane of Wading River-Manor Road near the intersection of Route 25A. The light is out at the corner and the intersection is flooded.

08/28/11 6:05am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A downed tree on Pulaski Street.

1 p.m.

11,024 of 19,119 Long Island Power Authority customers in Riverhead Town have been effected by power outages, according to an outage map on the power authority’s website.

Of those outages, 4,609 were reported in Calverton, 1,970 in Aquebogue, 1,154 in Riverhead, less than five in Northville and 3,290 in Wading River.

12:30 p.m.

Reader Diane Sammarco reported that a tree fell on a wire on Stephen Drive in Wading River which caused a fire in the road. Riverhead Fire Department officials also report a transformer fire on Edgar Avenue in Aquebogue, across the street from the Aquebogue Elementary School.

10:15 a.m.

Hurricane Irene, which has now been downgraded to a tropical storm, was expected to make landfall on Nassau County about 10 a.m., according to the National Hurricane Center. The storm was downgraded about 9 a.m. and maximum sustained winds are now expected to be 65 mph.

9:30 a.m.

So far, falling trees, and not flooding, have been the major problem locally as Hurricane Irene sweeps through the area.

Riverhead Highway Superintendent George Woodson estimates about 50 trees have fallen in town roadways, and that about half of those have fallen on power lines.

“There’s trees down all over,” he said. “The flooding wasn’t as bad as we thought.”

Several trees fell on Peconic Bay Boulevard, he said.

9 a.m.

Riverhead Town Police sent out an advisory telling residents to expect coastal flooding as the tide is five to seven feet above average.

“We have numerous trees and utility poles down throughout the town along with widespread power outages,” the advisory states.

Motorist are being urged to stay off the roads when winds reach 55 mph.

The advisory also states town beaches and parks will be closed until Tuesday and Riverhead Town Justice Court will be closed Monday.

For more information residents can call the town’s emergency preparedness hotline at 727-3200 ex SOS (767).


6 a.m.

As Hurricane Irene moves ever closer to Long Island the lights have begun to flicker.

More than 3,000 Riverhead Town residents have already been affected by outages and temporary loss of power Sunday morning, according to the Long Island Power Authority. Nearly 200,000  LIPA customers across Long Island have been affected by the storm as of 6 a.m.

More than two-thirds of the locally impacted LIPA customers live in Wading River.

While the strong wind gusts are being felt across Suffolk and Nassau counties Sunday are still only tropical storm force, by 8 a.m. hurricane force winds are expected to be felt on Long Island. Gusts as strong as 75 miles per hour are expected to rip through the area, where another five or so inches of rain is expected to fall Sunday.

Hurricane force winds extend 90 miles from Irene’s eye and tropical storm winds extend 260 miles.

At 6:58 a.m. today, Kennedy Airport reported top gusts of 44 knots or about 50 mph. With the eye of the still storm about 95 miles south of New York at that time, tracking toward a landfall in Queens, higher gusts there and in the region were expected. The storm’s top sustained winds were 75 mph as it tracks up the New Jersey coastline.

To report an outage, call LIPA at 800-490-0075 or 631-755-6900 or go on line at:


08/26/11 5:43pm
08/26/2011 5:43 PM

As Hurricane Irene nears, Riverhead Town has declared that a state of emergency will be in effect beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday.

The emergency declaration gives the town the authority to order mandatory evacuations for residents in low lying areas near water, although the town is currently only proposing non-mandatory evacuations for those residents and residents in mobile homes, Supervisor Sean Walter said Friday afternoon.

“We’re not going to force anyone from their homes,” he said.

The American Red Cross will open an emergency shelter open at Riverhead High School starting at 10 a.m. Saturday, Mr. Walter said, adding that residents should first seek to stay with a friend or relative before choosing to stay at the emergency shelter.

Suffolk County will open a pet-friendly shelter in the Woodland Building at the Eastern Campus of Suffolk County Community College, located at 121 Speonk-Riverhead Rd in Riverhead.

“The shelter is a last resort,” he said. “It will not be comfortable in there. The safest place for them to be in a home.”

Buses will be available to any mobile home residents who would prefer to go to the emergency shelter, Mr. Walter said.
Those seeking shelter should bring supplies with them, including medication, blankets, flashlights, snacks and water.

The state of emergency order will prohibit all but emergency vehicles from driving on roads in the town, and will give the town the ability to execute contracts with private businesses on an emergency basis, Mr. Walter said.

“People need to realize that during a storm event, once you have hurricane winds above 55 mph, emergency services are not able to respond because it’s not safe for them. So residents have to make that decision of where they are going to stay no later than [Saturday.],” he said.

Cars and their drivers are especially susceptible to projectiles in strong winds.

Mr. Walter, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller and others were in storm planning meetings and on conference calls all day Friday with officials from Suffolk County, the town, the local fire departments, Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Riverhead School District to coordinate their efforts.

Irene is expected to bring tropical force winds by Saturday evening and hurricane force winds by Sunday morning. The eye of the storm is expected to pass over western Suffolk as a Category I hurricane, which has winds of between 73 and 95 mph, according to the National Weather Service’s latest notice.