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Aug 29, 2011 10:24 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Emergency Responders Respond To Irene

Emergency Personnel Help Out During Storm
Emergency Personnel Help Out During Storm
Aug 30, 2011 6:46 PM

The wind whipping across the top of the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays on Sunday morning was forceful enough to buffet bystanders backward. At bridge bottom, to the north and the south, were boot-high floodwaters and a police barricade keeping unauthorized motorists and pedestrians at bay.

Water, wind, toppled trees and utility wires were the story of the weekend on the East End. Throughout Southampton and East Hampton towns, police officers, fire officials and other emergency responders barricaded perilous roads and spent sleepless hours preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best.

The Suffolk County sheriff’s office rolled out its strategic response vehicle—a camouflaged former military humvee—and used it to push fallen, road-choking trees out of the way. No sooner had the humvee pushed an uprooted tree aside on a flooded dead-end, Hyler Drive, in Hampton Bays on Sunday than a motorist drove through—likely unaware of the massive obstacle that had just been cleared. Earlier that morning, a 78-year-old woman had to be rescued from her Hyler Drive home after rising waters prevented her from opening her door, officials said.

By the time Irene swept away from the East End, however, most first responders said disaster did not strike as strongly as it could have.

No casualties were reported in either town as a result of the storm, although officials said a few people had to be rescued from flooded homes in Hampton Bays, Quiogue and East Hampton. Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley reported that a mandatory evacuation order for the low-lying areas of the village, including oceanside Meadow Lane, had about an 85-percent non-compliance rate.

“They’re lucky, because it didn’t rain,” he said. “If it rained, with those winds and that tidal surge, they would have been in trouble.” No water rescues were required in the village, he added.

A few residents of East Hampton and Bridgehampton were taken to the hospital for treatment of possible carbon monoxide poisoning from running generators, according to East Hampton Town Chief Fire Marshal David Browne and Southampton Town Fire Marshal John Rankin, respectively.

“It is a danger and still is at this point when people do not have electricity,” Mr. Rankin said on Tuesday. Generators must be kept outside and be well ventilated, he cautioned, and generators in attached garages can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. In Bridgehampton, the generators in question were outside but poorly ventilated, and the colorless, odorless poisonous gas seeped in through open doors and windows, Mr. Rankin said.

With power knocked out widely across the East End, generators not only sickened some, but they failed in other places.

The Quogue Fire Department generator failed on Sunday for about three and a half hours beginning at 5:30 a.m., according to Fire Chief Chris Osborne. During that time, communication was limited and the department’s electric doors had to be kept open manually, he said.

Southampton Hospital reported that it lost power for approximately 12 hours beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, but backup generators provided power in the interim. Hospital spokeswoman Marsha Kenny said that Emergency Department activity was relatively light during the storm, and Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance Chief Ian King said that his corps did not have any calls during the storm itself, although an ambulance and crews were camped out at the firehouse on Flying Point Road in addition to the SVVA headquarters on Meeting House Lane. Some of his crews saw an antique blacksmith’s shop get crushed under a falling tree at the Southampton Historical Museums and Research Center, however. “Fortunately, everyone was safe, no one got hurt,” Chief King said. Village Mayor Mark Epley said the Hamptons Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing also ran on generators after it lost power from Sunday morning through Monday.

No major structure fires were reported in either town, but a small abandoned house burst into flames in Riverside shortly before 6 a.m. on Sunday, according to a Southampton Town Police report, which listed arson as a suspected cause. The house, which Mr. Rankin estimated was smaller than 1,000 square feet, was unoccupied and no injuries were reported. Damage was limited to two first-floor rooms in the rear of the home, he said.

While fire calls were relatively few, false alarm calls were plenty, with motion detectors being set off by wind and other non-emergency means, authorities said.

Meanwhile, flooding in low-lying coastal areas was rampant. Buckets bobbed in floodwaters surrounding Cor-J Seafood just north of the Ponquogue Bridge in Hampton Bays. In Southampton Village, even homes on the north side of Meadow Lane—away from the ocean—had swamped yards. Southampton Village Police Chief Thomas Cummings said the biggest problems in the village were flooding at the beaches, dealing with people who wanted to go to the beach during the storm and placing officers at locations of downed wires and busy intersections for days. According to the police blotter, one fallen wire on Old Town Road near Leland Lane on Sunday morning blocked access to the hospital.

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Hats off to the Southampton Highway Dept. They really cleared our roads in short order. All the local fire depts. did a great job carrying out the mandatory evacuation order...letting residences in low lying areas know they were going to be "on their own". The fire houses were manned, and ready throughout the storm. Also, the amateur radio community was activated. HAMS were at the ready to help out as needed when standard communications failed. LIPA is doing a very good job, considering how ...more
By c'mon now (46), southampton on Aug 31, 11 5:43 PM
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