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Sandbags, A Community Effort, Slow The Water

Publication: The East Hampton Press
By Michael Wright   Aug 29, 2011 10:24 AM
Aug 30, 2011 6:17 PM

As Hurricane Irene approached Long Island last weekend, a group of Napeague homeowners—and a fair number of random passersby—undertook an effort to stop the storm-driven seas from flooding into their neighborhood.

On Friday afternoon, a couple of dozen homeowners and several other local residents and visitors built a wall of sandbags, 450 in all, across the access cut through the dunes at the end of Atlantic Drive.

“It was a fantastic thing, such a coming together,” said Marine Satinsky, who lives in the low-lying shorefront neighborhood and helped with the sandbagging. “There were people from Springs there helping, people’s houseguests from out of town. People wanted to be a part of helping out, I think.”

It was the second time in as many years that the neighborhood undertook the effort, which was organized by the local homeowners association and included almost every resident who was in town, Ms. Satinsky’s husband, Dan, said. Last year, as Hurricane Earl threatened the South Fork—ultimately breezing past with nary a stiff gust—a similar group piled the sandbags in the gap.

This time around, their effort was not entirely in vain. During the height of Irene’s diminished fury on Sunday morning, the ocean blasted into the sandbag wall. The rushing water washed over the wall at times, even taking off the top couple of layers of bags and scattering them in the road. A thin stream of foamy sea water washed down the street. But the sandbag wall did seem to hold back the full onrush.

“There’s no question that it prevented a large amount of water from coming in,” Charles Gayner said from the deck of a house overlooking the sandbag wall, which was still largely intact and in place on Tuesday morning. “The effort was wonderful. People were just showing up and saw us working, and I guess they missed their morning workouts, so they jumped in to help.”

Many of the bags were leftovers from last year’s effort, stored for just such a return engagement by Mother Nature. Those that remain from the tussle with Irene will be similarly stockpiled, since residents say they know it won’t be the last time the ocean threatens them.

“Starting to feel like we will have a storm during our week every year,” said Mr. Gayner’s wife, Rachel Ehrlich, of her family’s annual vacation at the house her relatives have owned for 40 years. “It’s hurricane season.”

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