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Hamptons flood prep: A cup of tea, a raft and candlelight

Alex Kabbaz and Donna Pyne-Trosin on Jan. 6,

Alex Kabbaz and Donna Pyne-Trosin on Jan. 6, 1974, as they prepare for a possible loss of electricity caused high tides with handmade candles. Credit: Newsday / Mitch Turner

Alex Kabbaz and Donna Pyne-Trosin expected a quiet winter season in the Hamptons, but an ocean flood changed their plans and, ultimately, their lives.

The young couple was living in Westhampton Beach during the winter of 1974 in a small rental house off Dune Road, right on the barrier beach. The forecast called for a bad storm surge, so Kabbaz, then 24, packed their belongings onto an inflatable raft, tied it to the home’s back deck and then sat down for a cup of tea with Pyne-Trosin, then 20, near two elaborate, brightly colored candles — two moments captured by a Newsday photographer.

“I remember it was 1974 and there were pictures of us in the paper,” Kabbaz, now 66, said in an interview.

The photo was one of several taken in the Hamptons that winter, as Dune Road residents prepared for a period of unusually high tides caused by “a rare alignment of the sun, moon and earth,” according to a Jan. 7, 1974, Newsday article.

A snapshot of Kabbaz tying up his blue and orange raft ran in Newsday the same day as that article. Other photos, including a portrait of the couple enjoying a cup of tea in front of two multicolored candles, were in Newsday’s archives.

“We made those candles. There’s a very old fashioned way; they take four or five days to make each one,” said Kabbaz, who has since returned to the Hamptons and now lives in Amagansett.

They had several sets of those candles around the house, Kabbaz said. He and Pyne-Trosin sold them on the side while Kabbaz sold real estate by day.

Pyne-Trosin said the couple had met as teenagers and had planned to stay in the Hamptons after the summer season ended. She worked at a deli there and the owner rented the couple the house in September 1973.

But then came reports of unusually high tides for Jan. 8, 1974.

Town officials and the National Weather Service weren’t sure how bad the impact would be, though they were prepared to evacuate about 20 families living on Dune Road. Kabbaz told Newsday he set up his raft “just in case.”

Ultimately the tide did surge, rising more than a foot and a half higher than normal, according to the Newsday story.

“The storm was so bad it came right across the road. The water just made a river,” Pyne-Trosin, 62, now of Manhattan, said in an interview. “It went under the pilings of the house.”

The couple was forced to evacuate. When the wheels of Kabbaz’s car got stuck in the mud and sand, the couple had to find loose boards to lay down to get off Westhampton’s barrier beach, Pyne-Trosin said.

“That year, it sort of pushed us out of the Hamptons,” she said. “I remember the two of us and the puppy we had leaving.”

Neither Kabbaz nor Pyne-Trosin could remember what happened to the house. Kabbaz said he recalled the house flooding and wasn’t sure if it was still there.

For the couple, the flood was a major force in their decision to relocate to Manhattan, where they hoped to make a go of the candle-making business, Pyne-Trosin said.

But it wasn’t meant to be. The couple broke up a few years later and went their separate ways. Pyne-Trosin became an attorney and Kabbaz was involved with several business ventures over the years. He now owns a custom clothing website. They still email often, Pyne-Trosin said.

“I went to Columbia, he went to a variety of jobs,” she said. “And we’re still friends all these years later.”


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