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Port Jefferson restaurants Ruvo and Old Fields are back open after sustaining serious damage during a Sept. 25 flood. Photos from Facebook

The skies opened and dumped buckets of water on Port Jefferson Village Sept. 25.

The area was hit with more than 4 inches of rain during the evening into the night, according to the National Weather Service, leading to severe flooding and leaving behind devastating damage. Two Main Street restaurants — Ruvo East and Old Fields of Port Jefferson — sustained significant damage that night, causing emergency evacuations and significant periods with their doors closed while feverish-paced repairs took place.

“I definitely have the best staff in all my restaurants,” said Joe DiNicola, owner of Ruvo. The restauranteur said the possibility of closing the doors to the establishment for good was a distinct possibility, but after weeks of hard work around the clock that possibility went away Oct. 11. “We bonded together and decided we were going to reopen it. Since then that’s been our common goal.”

The restaurant reopened Thursday afternoon. DiNicola said the building was inundated with about three feet of water as the rain poured down Sept. 25. The repair job required the reupholstering of most if not all of the restaurant’s furniture, “gutting” and redoing four bathrooms, a new roof, plumbing and electrical work, and more. He said his staff was all retained through the reconstruction process and nobody missed a paycheck. He said he encouraged his staff to take time off, making sure no one was putting in full seven-day work weeks, though many were there up to six days per week, and DiNicola said he was logging 15-hour days and beyond during the cleanup effort.

“We’ve had water in the past — a little bit,” he said. “This was an event that it was an anomaly. I just don’t understand. It was just rain.”

DiNicola said water poured into Ruvo from the roof, through drains and eventually in the front door. About 20 cars were totaled in the parking lot, he said. The Port Jefferson Fire Department — which sustained substantial damage itself at the Maple Place firehouse — had to assist people in exiting both Ruvo and Old Fields that night, in addition to helping stranded residents out of about a dozen cars. DiNicola and Old Fields owner David Tunney both heaped praise on the fire department for the work they did that night.

“Thank you to all first responders, village workers, volunteers, our staff, and to you, our loyal customers, thank you for all of your support,” Ruvo posted on its Facebook page Oct. 12.

Old Fields, which is just on the other side of Wynn Lane on Main Street north of Ruvo, was able to reopen Sept. 28, according to Tunney, who said he was thankful the situation here was not worse, sending his condolences to those experiencing recent storms in Florida and the Carolinas.

“It has been frantic,” he said. “We worked really hard and diligent to get back open. The water came in quick.”

Tunney’s restaurant was closed for two days, compared to nearly two weeks for Ruvo, though he said the job required a team of about 30 people working to clean and sanitize the soggy eatery. He said even in the moment on the night of the flood, he was able to keep things in perspective, joking that he told a member of his staff who asked if they needed some more rags, “no, get some tequila.”

This post was updated Oct. 16 to correct the date Old Fields reopened.

Theatre Three suffered damaged to costumes, props and other mechanical equipment, though productions went on a mere 72 hours after the storm. Photo by Kyle Barr

Though the floodwaters have receded a week later, cleanup and questions still remain.

Port Jefferson Village was hit with more than four inches of rain in about an hour during the evening Sept. 25, and while village trustee Bruce D’Abramo joked Port Jeff might have been prepared to handle a 100-year storm, it wasn’t ready for the “200-year storm” it sustained. The extreme rate of rainfall resulted in flash flooding that inundated Main Street, trapped motorists in cars, washed out those dining out in restaurants and soaked auditioning actors at Theatre Three. The theater and other businesses like Ruvo East on Wynn Lane and Old Fields of Port Jefferson a block over experienced high water marks of about four feet. Old Fields was closed for a few days after the storm while Ruvo remained closed for renovations due to the flooding as of Oct. 2. Port Jefferson School District’s two instructional buildings also were affected by the flooding, according to its website, and officials are in the process of determining what aspects of the damage are covered by insurance.

Theatre Three suffered damaged to costumes, props and other mechanical equipment, though productions went on a mere 72 hours after the storm. Photo by Kyle Barr

A furious volunteer effort ensued to get Theatre Three up and running in time for its Sept. 28 productions.

“We managed to get everything ready for Friday night and ran the entire weekend,” said Jeffrey Sanzel the theater’s executive artistic director.

Bradlee Bing, who serves on Theatre Three’s board of directors and was one of its founding directors in 1973, said cleanup efforts were undertaken by dozens of volunteers and staff in the 72 hours between the storm and Friday night’s productions. Work was done around the clock, spearheaded in large part by Brian Hoerger, the theater’s facilities manager, who Bing called the “champion” of the cleanup effort for his organizational and leadership role.

“As dark a day as it was, the sunshine and light of the volunteers really rejuvenated our energies and enthusiasm for what we’ve [been] doing these past 50 years,” Bing said. “The number of people that came down, multiple dozens of people that committed their time to putting everything back in order. The support of the town and community was overwhelming.”

He said restaurants donated food to help keep volunteers going, and The Home Depot and Lowe’s donated supplies to help remove the tons of mud and other remnants of the flood. He said much of the theater’s electrical wiring was destroyed. Sanzel said some other important items sustained major damage, including an HVAC unit, the boiler, costumes, a large chunk of props used in annual productions of “A Christmas Carol,” all of the props from the touring show “From the Fires: Voices of the Holocaust,” along with “many, many other things.”

“We’ve experienced in the past certain types of flooding in Port Jefferson,” Bing said. “This last one was the worst flooding event we’ve ever experienced. Wednesday morning was a mud disaster in the theater.”

Theatre Three suffered damaged to costumes, props and other mechanical equipment, though productions went on a mere 72 hours after the storm. Photo by Kyle Barr

New York State Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Setauket) indicated he’s seen severe flooding in Port Jeff in the past during nonhurricane weather events, but this particular storm raised his eyebrows for a number of reasons. The storm occurred during low tide and flooding was not due to tidal waters, meaning had it occurred during high tide it’s possible tidal floodwaters would have combined with the flash flooding to cause water levels to reach in the ballpark of 10 feet instead of the four to five feet that actually occurred, Englebright said.

“When you put a layer of sand on top of a living marsh and then build housing and buildings on it, and rename it from Drowned Meadow to Port Jefferson, and hope nobody would notice, nature will come back and bite you from time to time,” he said. As the chairman of the Assembly’s Committee on Environmental Conservation, Englebright indicated storms like this one could become more frequent. “That’s a kind of a preview of what’s going to happen if we don’t seriously address climate. The big flood is still in the future, but the signposts all point toward continuing sea level rise. So I’m concerned.”

Englebright suggested in the meantime serious consideration be given to raising future structures constructed in the village above ground level.

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The lights went out just as I had finished the chapter, and was about to put down my book and go to bed. I looked at my watch, which shines in the dark, and noted that it was past 11 p.m. It was a clear night with no lightning or wind, was my first thought. Probably some driver ran into a telephone pole and disabled a transformer, my brain posited, trying to make sense of the sudden blackness. Then the loud noises began. In rapid succession, there was a series of what sounded like firecrackers going off somewhere on our street, close to our house. The acrid smell of smoke began to fill the air.

I briefly thought to go outside, then decided to wait a few minutes before bothering to fumble around for a robe or wake the rest of the house. Within minutes my neighbor across the street phoned. He looks directly at our property. And he said that the telephone pole right beside my driveway was on fire, flames and sparks coming out from the bottom. “We’ve called the fire department, and you seem to be in no immediate danger,” he reassured me. “They said they would be here directly. In fact, here comes a police car now. It’s beaten the fire truck.”

Time to wake the house and go outside for a look, I decided, hoping not to trip over any obstacle on my way to the front door. The police car was in our driveway, his lights the only ones piercing the darkness. “What’s happened?” I yelled as he got out and slowly walked toward me. He didn’t want to trip over a tree root or a curb either.

“Your telephone pole is burning but not to worry, the firemen will shortly have it under control,” he offered calmly, as if everyone deals with these particulars when they should be in bed asleep. When I asked, he told me his name and that he was from the 6th Precinct. My hostess instincts rushed to the fore. “Would you like some coffee or a sandwich?”

He laughed. It was, after all, a preposterous exchange to be having in the dead of night. “No thank you, but here come the guys from PSEG, right behind the firemen. They will take care of this quickly.”

It wasn’t so quick. A courageous soul from PSEG Long Island went up in one of those extending arm buckets mounted on the truck alongside the burning pole to cut the electric wires. At the same time, the entire street was plunged into darkness, no doubt at the direction of the power company.

“What caused such a reaction?” my neighbor asked a worker. “Who knows?” he replied with a shrug. “It could be a rodent or a squirrel chewing through the wires.” The responders were a gallant crew, seemingly unperturbed by the excitement. Between the fire trucks and the PSEG trucks, there were interminable blinking lights and radio noise for a couple of hours. The men went about their jobs in good humor, and when the lines were cut and the fire finally out, they promised to come back the next day. They were able to restore power to the rest of the block but, of course, not to us, before they left.

To their great credit, the men were back with trucks by 9 a.m. the following morning. This surface crew dug up the burnt wires, installed a new pole alongside the charred one and reconnected the overhead wires. The underground crew arrived around midday and installed the other wires beneath the soil, laboring until well after dark under bright lights before they finished.

By 9 p.m. we had our power back in our house but not the other services that are attached to the pole: cable and telephone. As of this writing, those services are promised shortly. Whatever we grouse about on the national level of our country, it is tremendously reassuring that on the local level we are remarkably well cared for. Three cheers for my helpful neighbors, the police, firemen and PSEG men.

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By Alex Petroski & Kyle Barr

Those strolling through Port Jefferson Village on the morning of Sept. 26 couldn’t stride too far without hearing the distinct sound of Shop-Vacs. The area was hit with more than 4 inches of rain during the evening into the night Sept. 25, according to the National Weather Service, leading to severe flooding in Port Jefferson Village.

The intense rain storm flooded businesses, the Port Jefferson Fire Department and even forced emergency evacuations from Theatre Three. Fire department Chief Brennan Holmes said water levels on the department’s grounds on Maple Place reached about 5 feet high.

“The problem with this was it was 4 inches of rain in an hour and a half, so it rose so quickly that a chief’s car got stuck in a flash flood, we couldn’t get the trucks out,” he said Wednesday morning as cleanup efforts were already well underway. He added he had just spoken to Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), whose department was helping out with the cleanup effort. “I think we took 10 people out of flooded cars.”

Christian Neubert, a member of the fire department, said around 8 p.m. Tuesday night people were trapped in their cars in the vicinity of Wynn Lane, as well as others on Liberty Avenue near Port Jefferson High School. Holmes said between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. the department responded to 14 alarms related to the flooding.

In addition to damage to at least one department car, Holmes said the radio room also flooded, sustaining damage that was still being assessed Wednesday.

“We had a lot of stuff damaged,” Holmes said. “Usually [some flooding is] easily mitigated. We’re good with that. We get the trucks out and up the hill. This just came so fast and so quick and so much that it was tough.”

Theatre Three was inundated with water during the storm. The deluge left a watermark 4 feet high in the theater’s basement, high enough to nearly pour over the bar and stools used for the theater’s comedy nights.

Theatre Three president, Andrew Markowitz, said the flooding started around 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25. The water reached high enough to muddy the costumes and props the theater was to use in this upcoming Friday’s production of “The Addams Family,” many of which will have to be quickly replaced. Worse still, much of the theater’s lighting apparatus was stored downstairs, and personnel were still determining what needed to be repaired or replaced Wednesday.

“We have a lot of volunteers who are helping out, but anyone who wants to come down and clean they are welcome,” Markowitz said.

The office on a lower floor used by Jeffrey Sanzel, the theater’s executive artistic director, was nearly submerged. The small office contained innumerable books, original stage scripts and stage props, many of which Sanzel said were completely ruined by the rushing waters. He estimated several thousand dollars worth of items were destroyed. However, their loss means much more to him on a personal level.

“I spend more time in that office than I do in my own house, and everything in my desk, from my shelves down, is gone,” Sanzel said, his pants stained with mud. “The personal stuff — it’s just gone, I’ve never seen it like this. But then again, we could be in the Carolinas, you have to put things in proportion.”

At the same time the theater was hosting about 40 children and their families in auditions for its yearly portrayal of “A Christmas Carol.” Since the kids had nowhere to go with the several-foot-deep waters outside, Sanzel said they simply continued on with the auditions in order to keep the kids calm.

Holmes indicated that while the flooding was catastrophic, it occurred during low tide. When asked what this storm might have looked like had it happened during high tide, the chief responded, “We don’t want to know.”

Markowitz said Theatre Three is still waiting for the assessment on total damages, but he feared the cost could be astronomical. He said the theater would work hard over the next days to make sure the production of “The Addams Family” goes on, despite the flooding.

“The show must go on,” he said.

Donations are already pouring in, and theater operators said they have received close to $5,000 just in the morning hours after the flood.

For more information, go to the website: www.theatrethreetickets.com/donations.

As the calendar creeps into March, the North Shore of Long Island is not quite experiencing spring weather just yet. The entire East Coast of the United States was battered by Winter Storm Riley, which arrived during the morning hours March 2, with a combination of high winds, rapid rainfall and shear duration causing severe flooding and power outages locally in addition to several casualties elsewhere.

The nor’easter, or a storm along the East Coast of North America with winds over the coastal area blowing from the northeast, according to the National Weather Service, left more than 128,000 PSEG Long Island customers without power over the weekend. As of 8:30 p.m. March 4, the utility said more than 99 percent of its affected customers had power restored.

“Nor’easters are always a challenge and something that is a concern for us here, particularly when it comes to issues like power outages, flooding and coastal erosion,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D) said during the afternoon March 2 while providing an update to residents about the storm. “This storm in particular is a challenge for a couple of reasons. You are combining here high winds and a significant amount of rainfall. When you have those two things happening at the same time you are creating an environment for power outages, downed power lines, downed trees blocking roadways. Those are all the things we are monitoring, watching out for.”

Bellone said he had been in touch with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) office, and the state had offered to provide Suffolk with any additional equipment or personnel it required to effectively deal with Riley.

Much of Suffolk County experienced between 2 ½ and four inches of rainfall during the storm, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts in Suffolk reached as high as 78 mph in Middle Island, 51 mph in East Northport and 43 in Miller Place.

Port Jefferson Village, or Drowned Meadow as it was originally called in past centuries, endured substantial flooding. One Facebook poster joked Main Street in Port Jeff resembled Venice, Italy.

“We have flooding downtown folks and are now at high tide,” the village posted on its official Facebook page at about 11 a.m. March 2, adding several village streets had to be closed due to flooding. “We will keep you posted. Stay safe!”

There will be no rest for the weary hoping the passing of Riley would signal a shift toward spring weather, as the National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch for much of the region March 5 calling for a winter storm that could bring several inches of snow beginning late March 6 into March 7.

The corner of King and Oxalis road flooded as garbage cans floated to the center of the dip at the intersection following severe rainfall Aug. 18. Photo from Sara Wainwright

By Desirée Keegan

Rocky Point residents are flooded with emotion over the rise in water level during recent storms.

As rain fell on King and Oxalis roads during the heavy rainfall Aug. 18, residents reached out to Brookhaven Town’s highway department in search of answers as to why their questions of concern have not been answered.

“I know we sound like a broken record regarding the flooding conditions at King and Oxalis, but I am writing to continue to follow up on this situation,” Rocky Point resident Sara Wainwright wrote in a letter to the highway department. “We’ve been complaining for years about the flooding, which used to be occasional, and now occurs nearly every time it rains.”

Flooding runs down an almost mile-length on King Road in Rocky Point. Photo from Sara Wainwright

She said, and the highway department confirmed, that additional drains were added, but Wainwright claims they’re in places where they do not help to relieve the flooding, and said the town has to send out manpower and equipment to pump the drains almost every big storm.

“My husband, Frank, had a lengthy conversation with Kevin from the highway department, and members walked the property,” said Wainwright, who lives on King Road right across from the Oxalis intersection. “We suggested and Kevin agreed to look into installing additional drains on our property in front of our trees. We have heard nothing else on this since, and the conditions have continued to deteriorate with every storm.”

Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said that 12 drainage structures have been installed in the specific area of Rocky Point over the last year to alleviate flooding conditions. He said the cost of the systems was more than $70,000.

But Wainwright and her neighbors say the streets are still dangerous during heavy rain.

“This is the worst we have seen from rain alone — the water is nearly up to my neighbor’s front walkway,” she said Aug. 18. “Highway department workers did drive by and they did mention there are other flooding conditions today, however this is an ongoing issue that I have been requesting help with for several years. Please do not try to pacify me with ‘we had lots of flooding everywhere today.’ Even the fire department sent out warnings to responders that the road is closed due to flooding here.”

Losquadro responded that “flooding everywhere” is part of the problem, but said recent studies have shown that there is still a drainage issue in the vicinity.

“When we have significant rain events like this morning — when nearly four inches of rain fell within a few hours — most drainage structures will struggle to dissipate the runoff quickly enough to maintain a water-free surface,” he said. “I am well aware of the conditions experienced this morning both in Rocky Point and across central and northern Brookhaven Town and immediately dispatched crews to these areas to pump out existing drainage structures to alleviate flooded road conditions.”

Wainwright said that cars still speed down the road as flooding persists, and said this summer a man was trapped in his car when it died as he passed through.

Flooding on King and Oxalis roads. Photo from Sara Wainwright

“Please let me know how the town plans to proceed to resolve this issue as opposed to using our tax dollars to send out, and put at risk, employees and equipment,” Wainwright wrote in the letter. “Cars travel very fast down this road and have no regard for your workers, unfortunately. Another time, a police car became stuck, and multiple others of cars travel so fast they send a wake over my treetops. I think you get my point.”

Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who has lived in Rocky Point for the last 30 years, has witnessed the issue firsthand, and receives concerned calls and emails regarding the matter.

“Residents send me photos and ask for my help,” she said. “The highway department and Dan Losquadro have been doing a great job paving roads, repairing drains and putting out massive storm water infrastructure. As a resident of Rocky Point I know some flood spots are better than others, and I’m thankful I live at the top of a hill, but I have seen when the rain stops, it does drain pretty quickly. It’s a matter of massive pileup over a short period of time.”

Wainwright said at the very least, she feels there should be street signs indicating the risk of flood conditions, and a warning to signal drivers to slow down as they move through the at-risk streets.

“I’m concerned as the season progresses that we will see more rain and possibly tropical storm and hurricane conditions,” Wainwright said in her letter. “My neighbors and I should not need to worry about flooding at elevation — you must understand that is ridiculous. We are all taxpayers. Please communicate to us as to how you plan to use the money that we have all been paying to remedy this safety issue.”

Losquadro said his engineering division recently completed a drainage study in and around the area of King and Oxalis roads, and came to the conclusion that there is still some concern.

“I will be moving forward with additional drainage infrastructure to handle more volume than what had been designed for in the past,” he said, “thereby preventing this condition from happening again.”

Centereach's Sean McGuinness scoops up an infield dribbler. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With rain coming down, Centereach took to the field against Huntington and the Blue Devils stepped into the batter’s box first for a League IV baseball matchup Tuesday afternoon in Centereach.

Huntington's Luke Eidle releases a fastball. Photo by Bill Landon
Huntington’s Luke Eidle releases a fastball. Photo by Bill Landon

Huntington (1-11 in conference play) struck first when, on a Centereach throwing error, Brian Donnelly crossed the plate for the first run of the game.

Centereach’s Victor Corsaro doubled, representing the tying run in the bottom of the inning, and teammate Kyle Cerbone ripped one through the gap to even the score with two outs.

The rain grew steady though, and when the umpire behind the plate charged the infield to cover the ensuing play, he slipped and fell in deteriorating conditions.

“I saw him slip the first time and he warned me about the field conditions, and I said to him ‘we’ve had this conversation before,’” Centereach head coach Mike Herrschaft said. “This field can’t take a lot of rain and you can see how it’s getting slick out there at shortstop.”

Huntington managed to score another run in the top of the second to take a 2-1 lead, and the Cougars went back to work at the plate. Centereach (2-10) popped the ball up shallow in the infield and the plate umpire approached the play and fell a second time. The official was slow to get up. After a brief conference between both coaches, the umpires left Nick Corsaro in the batter’s box with his team trailing by one with two outs.

“The umpire called the game because of unsafe conditions on the field,” Huntington head coach Bill Harris said. “Where the field transitions to the grass, he slipped and fell.”

Centereach's Matt Hirsch hurls from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon
Centereach’s Matt Hirsch hurls from the mound. Photo by Bill Landon

The game was suspended after an inning and a half, so the balance of the game will be completed at a later date.

“I saw him slip the second time and he said he didn’t want to see one of the kids slip and get hurt,” Herrschaft said. “You can’t argue with that, but this is the first time I’ve known a game to be called because of unsafe conditions for the umpires. The kids are wearing spikes and the umpires are wearing sneakers.”

Herrschaft added that both teams will take the mound Friday afternoon for a scheduled matchup and then complete the suspended game for the doubleheader at home.

Centereach traveled to Huntington on Wednesday for game two of the three-game series, but results of that game were not available by press time.

Young bathers dive into the waters of a newly reopened beach at the Centerport Yacht Club. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The county health department warned locals on Friday against bathing at 25 Huntington area beaches, the morning after heavy rainfall drenched the North Shore.

According to the Suffolk County Department of Health Services, it issued the advisory because the rain could have led to bacteria levels in the water that exceed state standards.

“The beaches covered by the advisory are located in areas that are heavily influenced by stormwater runoff from the surrounding watersheds and/or adjacent tributaries,” the department said in a press release, “and, because of their location in an enclosed embayment, experience limited tidal flushing.”

Affected beaches include Eagle Dock Community Beach, Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club beach, West Neck Beach, Lloyd Neck Bath Club beach, Lloyd Harbor Village Park beach, Gold Star Battalion Park beach, Head of the Bay Club beach, Nathan Hale Beach Club beach, Baycrest Association beach, Bay Hills Beach Association beach, Crescent Beach, Knollwood Beach Association beach, Fleets Cove Beach, Centerport Beach, Huntington Beach Community Association beach, Centerport Yacht Club beach, Steers Beach, Asharoken Beach, Hobart Beach (both the Long Island Sound and cove sides), Crab Meadow Beach, Wincoma Association beach, Valley Grove Beach, Prices Bend Beach and Callahans Beach.

The advisory was scheduled to be lifted at 9 p.m. on Friday, to give enough time for two tidal cycles to clear out the water. However, the health department said the advisory would not be lifted if water samples from the affected beaches showed continued high levels of bacteria.

For up-to-date information on the affected beaches, call the health department’s bathing beach hotline at 631-852-5822 or visit the beach monitoring webpage.

Flowering quince, once established, is somewhat drought tolerant and has lovely red flowers in the spring. By planting drought-tolerant plants, you’re less likely to have to spend your time irrigating your garden. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

The last two years have been interesting weatherwise on Long Island. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, which predicted a cold and snowy winter for 2013-14, and yes it was, also predicted a hot and rainy summer. As far as the hot part is concerned, it was one of the coolest summers in many years. So much for the hot part!

The wet part, well that’s a different story, kind of. Through early August we were below average. The average rain at Brookhaven National Lab in Upton for June, July, August and September hovered around four inches each of those months — a little above, a little below. June’s actual rainfall was just a little over two inches and July’s was about two and a half — definitely below average. Last fall and early winter, however, gave us plenty of rain. Last winter (2014-15) was incredibly cold and snowy. While the meteorologists didn’t talk “polar vortex” as they had the winter before, the almanac did predict a very cold winter, and yes, it was. But spring, so far has been relatively cool and dry.

Because rainfall on Long Island can vary so much from not only year to year but week to week, gardeners needed to keep an eye on it so that their gardens thrive. On average, it rains once every three or four days, but we can go for weeks in the summer with little or no rain or have it rain every day for a solid week or more.

Place a rain gauge strategically in your garden so you can see how much rain you’re getting each week and adjust your irrigation schedule accordingly. Above, the gauge shows that approximately four inches of rain/irrigation were received at that spot in the garden in just a few days. Photo by Ellen Barcel
Place a rain gauge strategically in your garden so you can see how much rain you’re getting each week and adjust your irrigation schedule accordingly. Above, the gauge shows that approximately four inches of rain/irrigation were received at that spot in the garden in just a few days. Photo by Ellen Barcel

Not only does rainfall vary timewise but geographically as well. August 13’s, 2014, record 13 plus inches of rain in southwestern Suffolk County (the Islip area in particular) flooded roads that tied up traffic, but the North and South forks got less than an inch of rain from that storm. So eastern Suffolk gardeners were watering their plants while western and central Suffolk gardeners were pumping out flooded basements.

So, place a rain gauge in your garden where it can accurately measure how much rain your garden has received. Make sure that the gauge is not under bushes, for example, which can cover the gauge’s opening. Check your gauge periodically. You can then adjust your added watering accordingly.

Most of us have very sandy soil. We need to be particularly concerned with weeks and weeks of no or little rain during the summer. We need to supplement what Mother Nature provides, particularly with plants such as tomatoes or hydrangeas, both of which need a steady supply of water. Tomato plants that dry out can result in blossom end rot. Grass should receive about an inch a week. Remember that since most of us have very sandy soil, even torrential rain, say two or more inches at once, drains quickly into the soil, and a few days later you may need to water. Also, containers dry out more quickly than plants in the ground.

Some of us have clay soil or live in an area where the water table is very high. For those gardeners, it’s not a question of getting enough rain; it can be controlling too much water or finding plants that do well in very wet soil.

If you have an area where lots of water drains into the soil, say from your roof top, you might want to consider a rain garden. This basically consists of a depressed area, frequently with a berm around it, which acts like a recharge basis (a sump) for the island’s water table. If you have an area where water virtually never drains, you might consider a bog garden. Plants that  enjoy “wet feet” do well here.

Using native plants is an option and will make it easier for the gardener. Native plants are adapted to Long Island’s periods of rain and drought and need little tending.

More on native plants, rain gardens and bog gardens in future weeks.

Ellen Barcel is a freelance writer and master gardener. To reach Cornell Cooperative Extension and its Master Gardener program, call 631-727-7850.

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