As I am writing this, recovery from Hurricane Irene is still in full swing. From my office window on South Street, I have seen a steady stream of LIPA, telephone, Cablevision and Town of Oyster Bay trucks taking crews to work on repairing the damage done by Irene. I’d like to express appreciation to all the volunteer firemen, paramedics and EMTs who worked tirelessly in this storm and its aftermath to respond to emergency calls and fires. It seemed to me like an alarm was almost constantly sounding. LIPA has been taking a lot of heat for its response to this storm, but it seems to me that they had a herculean task to restore power. The amount of huge trees down, coupled with the flooding made a difficult task even harder. Live power lines and floodwaters make a lethal combination. It seems to me that if power lines were buried underground, a lot of the outages could have been prevented. For example, Friends of the Bay has long advocated for burying the lines along Shore Road, both for aesthetic and safety reasons.
I also have to commend News12 for their ongoing coverage of the storm. For those whose cable was knocked out by the storm, News 12 was carried live on local radio stations, and information was constantly being posted on the News12 Facebook page, so residents could be kept informed as to Irene’s progress, and the recovery efforts. Doug Geed and Carol Silva, other anchors and the news reporters from the field and the weathermen, did a superb job of covering Irene, without descending into the hype and hysteria that all too often comes with a storm.
As awful as the damage was here, and inconvenient as the power outages were, it pales in comparison to the utter destruction done to communities in upstate New York and Vermont. In the Catskills area, whole towns were wiped out and in certain parts of Vermont I have heard it will take months to restore power, since roads have to be rebuilt before power can be brought back. There, the storm was truly devastating.
This storm clearly brought home the damage that can be done not only by wind and flooding, but by stormwater. Placid creeks and streams turned into raging forces that undermined roads and flooded homes and businesses. On the Sound side of Centre Island beach, it looked like there was very nearly a breach between the Sound and the bay, and that only the rock wall there stopped it. Hurricane Irene brought a very forceful reminder to us that as much as the human race has advanced in technology, that natural forces cannot be denied.
Friends of the Bay’s water quality monitoring volunteers did get out on Monday to continue our citizen monitoring program. The coliform levels were uniformly higher than normal, which is not unexpected. The stormwater would have washed down all the bacteria from the upland areas surrounding the harbors and bays. This is the reason for shellfishing and beach closures. The dissolved oxygen levels were high for this time in the season, but once again, that is storm related.