Breaches ripped through barrier islands by superstorm Sandy's winds and waves have left the South Shore vulnerable to more flooding by a predicted nor'easter.
"There is nothing to prevent the waves coming over -- it's pure flat sand," Mastic Beach Mayor Bill Biondi said Sunday. "We have nothing to stop the water from coming here."
The coastal village relies on protections from Fire Island near Smith Point County Beach, but Sandy cut a breach in the sand that would allow the nor'easter's waves and winds to reach Mastic Beach unabated. Already, 1,000 of the community's 5,800 homes were swamped when waters pushed by Sandy rushed over Fire Island and into Great South Bay.
Sunday, forecasters said a low-pressure front could strengthen and move over the region's wounded coastline Wednesday as a powerful nor'easter. Sustained winds of 20 mph to 35 mph and gusts between 40 mph and 60 mph are projected, with the higher blasts hitting coastal areas. One to 2 inches of rain is also expected, National Weather Service meteorologist Joey Picca said.
Communities near the Fire Island breaches could be in trouble, as well as those areas where waves washed over dunes, knocking them down.
"A rise in the level of water might have a little more of an impact that it would have before Sandy," Picca said. "We lost some of the protections that might have existed with sandbars, berms, jetties, what have you."
The wind also could topple weakened power lines and trees, compounding outages.
But the waves could bring added trouble to locations already flooded by Sandy. And as the winter storm season begins, the problem could grow.
"You start punching holes in the barrier island and you're going to see flooding like that much more often," said Aram Terchunian, a coastal geologist with First Coastal Corp. in Westhampton Beach.
Moriches Inlet to Montauk Point could see 10-foot to 15-foot waves Wednesday and the coast from Fire Island to Moriches could see waves of 8 feet to 13 feet, according to a National Weather Service marine forecast issued Sunday morning.
Securing buildings, building temporary berms and replenishing beaches will help in the short term. "That's the best we can do between now and when the storm hits," Terchunian said. "We've just got to hope that Wednesday is a small event."
Brookhaven Town spokesman Jack Krieger said the municipality is in contact with Suffolk County's Emergency Operations Center and is watching the storms closely, but evacuations were not planned Sunday.
In Long Beach, where residents were without power, sewage and water Sunday, the city was monitoring the storm, City Manager Jack Schnirman said. Nor'easters tend to hit on the north side of the barrier beach and the city is considering sandbagging around the LIPA station there.