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Storm surge wreaks havoc on East End shores

A blizzard and strong waves in Hashamomuch Cove

A blizzard and strong waves in Hashamomuch Cove in Southold caused major damage to a home. (Dec. 27, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Hard-charging surf and powerful winds from Monday's storm pounded parts of the East End, flooding roads and damaging a handful of homes in erosion-prone parts of Montauk and the North Fork.

At Hashamomuck Cove in Southold, debris from destroyed bulkheads bobbed in the churning waters of Long Island Sound. Homeowners say erosion has left two houses there and a multimillion dollar home in Montauk's Soundview section near collapse. None was inhabited at the time of the blizzard.

"It was a beautiful beachfront house," said John Patrick Lycke, who monitors the Montauk home for owner Eugene Racanelli.

That house now hangs precariously over Long Island Sound after storm surge sucked away bulkheads in front of homes along Captain Kidd's Path. The beach stairs are gone, the lower decks ripped away, and the entire foundation of Racanelli's house has been compromised, Lycke said, and the police won't allow anyone to enter it.

"Now there's nothing under Mr. Racanelli's house, except the water," he said.

Along the Southold waterfront, Ron Dietrich, whose late mother, Virginia Dietrich, owned one of the two threatened properties there, said the family's house is doomed. "The bulkhead is completely destroyed," Dietrich said. "Everything in the cellar is gone."

Early reports from emergency managers indicate the blizzard caused relatively little damage to more densely populated coastal areas farther west, including low-lying South Shore neighborhoods such as Freeport and Point Lookout, which typically get slammed by storm surge.

"I would say it's moderate at worst," said Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray.

Parks officials are still assessing the storm's impact on Long Island beaches, many still covered in drifts of snow from the 24-hour juggernaut. Some erosion was reported at Meschutt Beach in Hampton Bays, Suffolk officials said.

Wind gusting from the north at more than 60 mph pummeled Long Island's North Shore during the blizzard, said National Weather Service meteorologist Joe Pollina.

Shifting from northeast to northwest late Sunday night and early Monday morning, the wind pushed storm surge south toward spots already prone to erosion. "Direction is key," Pollina said. "Any northerly component will batter the North Shore."

The storm flooded two-thirds of Orient Beach State Park and caused significant erosion along the Gardiners Bay shoreline, but only moderate erosion at Montauk area parks, according to state parks officials.

Farther west, the storm also undermined the shoulder of Soundview Avenue, leaving a 15-foot drop. Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said highway department workers put up a barricade Monday and closed the road.

The erosion problems at Hashamomuck Cove - a small community of 11 houses, most of them used only in summer - go back decades. No one is living in any of the houses now.

Monday Reggie Barron removed personal items from one of the two threatened houses, where he had lived with the Dietrich family. "The house is on its last legs as we speak," Barron said. "We're just taking out the last remnants that mean something to us."

With Bill Bleyer and

Debbie Tuma

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