I first wrote most of this a few weeks after Katrina but the paper I worked for killed what I wrote because it was "too negative." It basically was a report by the U.S. on what would happen to the East End and believe me the article wasn't good for Hamptons real estate and was killed. So two years later I toned it down and it was edited quite a bit. This summer I put out a hybrid of the two during Hurricane season, maybe you read it, perhaps now is a good time to reread it.
In the middle of this depressing economic downturn no one has the gumption to talk about the catastrophic results a level 3-4-5 hurricane would have on the East End.
After Katrina I was assigned a story about the what if’s concerning the Hamptons. At the time the results were so horrific the story was killed.
Because the village of East Hampton is so close to the ocean with a natural wall of sand dunes that can handle about a 7- to 9-foot rise above normal high tide, the problem lies in the fact that a Category 3 hurricane is projected to make the tide 13 feet higher than normal (depending on the tide).
Back in 2007 I interviewed schoolteachers from Biloxi, Mississippi, who solemnly told me it is was 32 feet higher than normal water level that destroyed their homes, town and lives. That was a Category 4 situation with wind direction and tides working against them.
Ellen Stahl of Sag Harbor told me about her touring Biloxi after Katrina and having one mother say Biloxi looked liked, “Hiroshima, without the radiation.”
Could that happen here? An East Hampton town study a while back basically estimated the damage to the Village of Montauk's infrastructure, roads, sewers, electrical lines and buildings to be a minimum of $500 million. Add the other hamlets and East Hampton Town’s exposure could be in the billions. The same most likely for Southampton.
This number does not include personal effects in homes, stores and things like cars.
Our government (FEMA) ever thoughtful, issued a press release a few years back about “Pets in an Emergency!” and since I have a dog I read it. Things like, have a survival kit of pet food, medical supplies, water and medical records were mentioned.
Then I read a Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) report on Hurricane safety precautions that centered on windows and doors and how secure they are or how they should be improved, as well as the importance of town building codes. What I also read in that report was one should always have drinking water put away should the electric go out and the pumps won’t work or worse (Unsafe water due to broken pipes).
I thought back to the nuclear bomb shelter days when people had canned foods and supplies put away to wait out a nuclear attack. How many people today have stuff put away for a nuclear attack let alone a hurricane?
So what should one have? Power bars, basic canned soups with real long expiration dates, not to mention spam if it still exists? (By the way I loved the spam at Boy Scout camp back in the sixties). How much water do you have stored? How many stored fully charged cell phone batteries do you have in a secure place or do you have a car cellphone charger to recharge your cell phone should traditional phone lines go down?
If a category 4-5 hurricane happens, let's face it, help will not be coming for a few days.
Dan Rattiner told me after the hurricane of 1938 a certain Montauk pharmacy owner, (not his dad) doubled the prices of everything in the store while Montauk was cut off from the rest of East Hampton by flooding across Neapeague. That is illegal now but...
By the way without electricity gas can’t be sold, supermarkets can’t sell merchandise because all checkout counters are electric. And forget about using the ATM, during the last power outage that lasted almost a day in NYC, ATMs were useless. This article isn’t supposed to scare you but make you think about some basic needs. It’s been perhaps too long since a storm like the one that destroyed Westhampton Beach has hit the area.
Last year many went wild inconvenienced for just a week. Perhaps too many people just are too busy to worry about a bad storm. One has to wonder about the possibility the town’s of East Hampton and Southampton both in the middle of cost cutting have actually taken a short cut or two on storm emergency supplies? The fact is most likely everyone has.
Remember hearing about the run in the local stores for batteries, water, milk and other basic supplies before last years hurricane scare? Perhaps one should create one’s own survival list like the FEMA pet one. Maybe everyone should think through where they might go in their home to ride out a storm if they can’t evacuate.
Think about the stories of the long line of cars out of Charleston, South Carolina during their last hurricane scare and people running out of gas in those non-moving traffic jams. Here's a story about crazy damage; I remember reading how Island Dunes Condos located on Hutchinson Island along Florida’s East Coast had four floors of pack sand from the floors to the ceilings during the storms of 2000. I saw the pictures.
FEMA says, “Disasters or emergencies can strike quickly and without warning and may force you to evacuate your neighborhood or confine you to your home… Being prepared for an emergency is everyone’s responsibility. If you are elderly or have disabilities or special needs, careful planning is essential to survive a tornado, flood, fire or other disaster."
After Katrina everyone was quick to point out how foolish New Orleans was to be so unprepared for a hurricane. Will the country be saying that about the Hamptons