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Storm

Still digging out from early August wind, rain storm that rocked parts of greater Three Village community

John Morgan, above, from Impact Environmental, clears branches from the entrance of the park at Trustees Park in Poquott. Photo by Giselle Barkley

In the aftermath of the powerful early-morning storm that hit the North Shore on Aug. 4, organizations and volunteers, like Impact Environmental and Ward Melville High School ice hockey students, are battling fallen trees and branches as they cleanup areas like Trustees Park in Poquott.

The volunteers began cutting trees, picking up debris and clearing areas of the park around 9 a.m. on Friday. Few people have used the park for recreational purposes since the storm, as broken trees, branches and other debris still blocked the park’s main entrance. Nick Pisano, a Ward Melville High School student, said he “doubts that [they] could finish [cleaning] today.”

Impact environmental worker Frank DeVivo agreed with Pisano.

“There’s a lot in there and we have several people [helping clear the debris], so we’ll be able to get it done,” DeVivo said. “It’s just a matter of time and organization.”

Two weeks ago, on Aug. 13, Poquott residents voiced their concerns regarding how storm-damaged areas of the village were being cleared following the storm. But clearing those areas, including the park, was difficult. Clearing the park alone cost Impact Environmental around $8,000.

“The village has no money to do any of the prep work,” Richard Parrish, president and CEO of Impact Environmental said. “So we made a decision that Impact Environmental would pay [to clear the park].” This is something we do to help out the village,” Parrish said.

Earlier Friday, the debris extended several feet in front of the park’s entrance. According to Impact Environmental worker John Morgan, the volunteers started their day fighting to clear branches and twigs to clear the area in front of the entrance. Morgan also said he helped clear an additional path by the entrance. With the path cleared, Morgan and the other volunteers could continue picking up debris, including pieces of a 30 to 35 foot birch tree that broke off during the storm.

Morgan cut the broken tree into several pieces, making it easier to clear the main entrance area. Morgan, like Parrish and the other volunteers, was happy to help the community, saying that making others happy made him happy. DeVivo had a similar response regarding clearing the park’s entranceway.

“This is a really well-used park, and they enjoy the ability to get to their tennis courts, and they enjoy the ability to take nice walks,” DeVivo said. “So it’s good to be able to come out here and help out, and help clean it up and get it back to functionality.”

Mayor Delores Parrish also joined the volunteers, later in the day, to help clean and move trees and other debris from the park. According to Richard Parrish, the mayor was bringing a larger vehicle to help transport debris to a landfill.

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Mayor Dee Parrish signs a document at Thursday evening’s Poquott Village board meeting at Poquott Village Hall. Photo by Talia Amorosano

By Talia Amorosano

In the early morning, on Tuesday, Aug. 4, a surprise extreme weather event literally took the North Shore by storm, leaving floods, fallen trees, and power outages in its wake, and causing Village of Poquott officials to declare a State of Emergency.

Nine days later, on Aug. 13, it was clear that effects were still very much being felt in the Three Village area, with uprooted trees and debris lining the roadways up to Poquott Village Hall. There, at 7 p.m., citizens of the village gathered to voice their reactions to board members’ handling of the storm, and to express requests for how the remaining damages should be handled.

A major complaint many meeting attendants shared involved communication between board members and the public. Residents at the meeting voiced concerns of a lag in response time from Poquott Mayor Dee Parrish and her administration, which one trustee took issue with.

“The only way we found out the road had re-opened was to drive down there and look, make a U-turn, and go back.” Trustee Harry Berry said in defense of the accusation. “We heard nothing. First off, there was no power— a lot of people didn’t get their power back until Saturday. There was no Internet, and cellphone coverage was terrible.”

Still, residents argued the village officials could have done more to communicate with the greater Poquott community after the storm.

Indeed, the storm did bring with it increased safety concerns. Village resident Carol Pesek emphasized the importance of future communication in terms of relaying how to avoid some of the unique dangers brought about by the storm. She specifically noted the necessity of avoiding trees touching downed telephone wires.

Parrish said she would note these considerations for the future, and then brought the public commentary section of the meeting to an early close. After this, the board approved resolutions authorizing Parrish to draft and submit a FEMA application requesting financial support to cover storm damages, directing Clerk Joseph Newfield to schedule, and notice accordingly, public bids for cleaning of village drains per the list from the Commission of Environmental and also directing the clerk to schedule, and notice accordingly, public bids for tree clean up and removal in the village from the storm.

A resolution approving a village carting company to conduct an additional pick-up of residential landscaping debris, not to exceed $5,000, was tabled, on the condition that enough debris may be cleared by individual residents to render the additional expense unnecessary.

The Poquott Civic Association and Village of Poquott also held a fundraiser on the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 15, at the park on the corner of Washington Street and Chestnut Avenue. Tommy Sullivan, of Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge, performed a free, old-time rock n’ roll concert, and attendees donated money and participated in a raffle to raise funds for storm repairs.

With community participation and cooperation between elected officials and constituents, the Three Village area will recover from this storm quickly and, perhaps more importantly, gain the tools and experience necessary to prepare for future incidents of extreme weather.

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Downed trees were a common sight along Route 25A in the Setauket- East Setauket and Stony Brook areas. Photo by Rohma Abbas

The winds have subsided, but Setauket and Stony Brook still have a lot of debris to clean up since last week’s brutal storm sent the North Shore for a spin.

An early morning windstorm made its way through the area early last Tuesday morning, toppling trees and downing power lines. The electricity has since been restored, a spokesman for PSEG Long Island said, and the utility has been providing more than 600 workers to ensure all temporary repairs are made permanent. Most roads have been cleared of fallen trees, and the town has been moving nearly 1,000 cubic yards of material a day amid cleanup efforts.

But there is still a ways to go.

Brookhaven Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R) said it could take another two to three weeks for Setauket and Stony Brook to be declared 100 percent passable. In the immediate aftermath of the storm, Losquadro said his team buddied up with utility PSEG to help remove trees from roadways while grappling with fallen utility poles and electric wires. Now, he said it’s all about following through on the stragglers.

“This week, we’ve been bringing crews in an hour early each day to continue the debris removal process,” he said in a phone interview this week. “While we have shifted skeleton crews back out to their respective districts, a vast majority of my assets are still deployed in this area doing debris removal.”

Losquadro said the trucks were moving quickly to remove debris and bring it to his department’s Setauket yard to be handled. And he credited a big chunk of his team’s efficiency since the winds came barreling through on his emergency management preparedness.

“We had a plan set up with [the] waste management [department] that they would move their big grinder — the one at the Brookhaven landfill — to an area where we would stage material out of,” he said. “Now, we only have to handle the materials once.”

In prior storms, Losquadro said the town moved waste materials two to three times before they hit a landfill, which slowed down the recovery process and ended up costing more money. But the new plan has made cleaning up more efficient.

On a financial note, Losquadro said the storm will undoubtedly put a dent in his overall budget but his team would remain vigilant in tracking all costs and seeking reimbursement from the state, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency, when the recovery efforts conclude.

“It will be a significant number,” he said. “There’s no two ways about it. It’s a fact that that area was hit harder by this storm than it was hit by [Hurricane] Sandy.”

The highway superintendent said the hardest-hit areas in Setauket and Stony Brook should be able to fully put the storm behind them in a matter of two weeks or so.

“The fact that this was a localized event did allow me to pour many more assets into a smaller area to get the recovery done faster,” he said. “It also allowed PSEG to do the same thing. I, myself, could not be happier with the organization of my operation.”

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A utility crew gets to work on Old Post Road in Port Jefferson after a storm wreaked havoc on the area. Photo by Elana Glowatz

Tuesday morning’s storm literally came out of the blue. The skies were clear and calm on Monday and residents were going about their summer, as they should.

Some may have even welcomed the news of pending thunderstorms and rain — we could use the shower. But then it hit.

By the time we woke up Tuesday morning, we were reminded just how fragile our environment is. Trees were in our streets. Traffic lights had gone black. Police were scrambling to make sense of the aftermath of what was a short but intense early-morning storm filled with heavy winds, rain, thunder and, in spots, hail.

We will spend the coming days digging ourselves out, as we always do in the wake of severe weather events. But let’s not just get back to business once the roads are cleared and the traffic lights flicker green, yellow and red once more.

This was a freak weather event. We did not have the courtesy of a week’s warning as we did during storms with names like Irene or Sandy. We did not see this one coming.

And now, we are all paying for it.

We are calling on our elected officials to use this severe storm as a catalyst to catapult environmentally focused legislation and reforms.

For example, we like to talk a lot about moving our power lines underground in order to save them from toppling trees. But the price tag is usually what puts that idea right back into our political pockets, stored away for another day. Well that day is fast approaching.

This summer has already had its fair share of gentle and not-so-gentle reminders that our environment is suffering. In June, we spent weeks discussing the causes and effects of low oxygen levels along our shores that left our waterfronts riddled with dead fish. The tragic event sparked a political debate over the Island’s environmental future but, again, we still await concrete action.

We are also calling on our legislators and our readers to use this storm as a reminder to stay on top of the greenery we all take pride in. Clean up your yards and have your trees routinely inspected and trimmed to ensure they can sustain the kinds of storms that catch us off guard. We can also stock up on nonperishable foods and batteries to ease the panic in a storm’s aftermath. There is always more we can do.

It’s time we come to terms with the notion that significant action is necessary, and is worth the financial investment. One way or another, we will end up paying in the long run. Let’s start paying now instead of the inevitable next time traffic lights go dark.

Severe weather toppled trees and downed power lines across the North Shore on Tuesday morning, leaving roads unnavigable and residents without electricity in areas including Port Jefferson, Setauket, Smithtown and Stony Brook.

The National Weather Service sent out three separate thunderstorm warnings in the early morning hours between 4 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. citing reports of hail, thunderstorms and wind damage with trees falling onto homes and power lines down throughout the Port Jefferson area. By daybreak, intense winds and rain made way for a sunny morning that revealed the aftermath of the storm. Trees were in the streets and traffic lights had gone black.

By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, utility PSEG Long Island reported more than 20,000 customers in Brookhaven Town without power and more than 8,000 in Smithtown. Over 42,000 customers were affected in total and as of 10:30 a.m. 38,027 are without power throughout Long Island and the Rockaways, PSEG said.

Route 25A in East Setauket was a hotbed of activity on Tuesday morning, and the Suffolk County Police Department urged drivers to treat outed traffic lights as stop signs in lieu of electricity. In fact, SCPD requested all drivers to completely avoid Route 25A all together on Tuesday morning in Port Jefferson, Setauket and Stony Brook as various road closures were underway to remove trees from the streets. By 10:30 a.m., SCPD announced that Route 25A was closed in both directions between Franklin Street and Stony Hill Road in Port Jefferson.

Lights along Nicolls Road in Stony Brook, and all lights from Nicolls Road on Route 25A stretching to Main Street in Setauket were out this morning. Tree and leaves were strewn across Route 25A, and traffic moved slowly along the thoroughfare in the Setauket and Stony Brook areas. SCPD cars were a common sight. The lights were out at many businesses along Main Street in Stony Brook.

In a statement, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine said he was working with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to coordinate resources to respond to hard-hit areas.

“The storm that hit this morning caused extensive damage and power outages throughout the North Shore, and I have authorized all resources from Parks and Waste Management Departments to assist the Highway Department in the clean-up effort,” he said. “Our Emergency Operations Center was activated at 6:30 a.m. and currently, a PSEG representative is coordinating efforts to restore power to more than 21,000 Brookhaven residents.”

The Smithtown Fire Department responded to a call of the first of many downed power lines at 5:01 a.m., according to spokesman Jeff Bressler. The alarms were the result of a quick-moving powerful storm that made its way through the Smithtown area. As of 8:43 a.m., eight calls were dispatched for wires in addition to a CO activation and a mutual aid to a structural fire in St. James, Bressler said.

The National Weather Service also issued a coastal hazard message as the storm battered the North Shore, warning residents to watch out for strong rip currents flowing away from the shorelines.

Rohma Abbas contributed to this report.

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Send us your storm photos to News@TBRNewspapers.com.