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Suffolk says blizzard caused $10M in damage

Erosion that was worsened by the recent blizzard

Erosion that was worsened by the recent blizzard in front of The Montauk Soundview Resort on Soundview Drive in Montauk Friday afternoon. (December 31, 2010) Credit: Gordon M. Grant

Suffolk County's damage tally from the Dec. 26-27 blizzard tops $10 million, and officials are increasingly concerned about severe erosion at Robert Moses State Park and other hard-hit beaches.

The new assessments Wednesday came after county officials met with federal and state emergency management representatives who came to determine if the area will qualify for U.S. disaster assistance.

After touring the East End Wednesday, teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state Office of Emergency Management Thursday are scheduled to visit Robert Moses, Huntington and Brookhaven. At Moses, they will join County Executive Steve Levy to view the eroded beaches at Fields 4 and 5.

"This was the sixth major storm of 2010 that impacted our coastline," noted Levy, who added that the sand must be replaced at beaches including Moses, Meschutt and Cupsogue county parks and elsewhere in Suffolk to minimize potential future damage.

Ronald Foley, regional director for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said the blizzard's powerful winds carried away about two-thirds of the 200,000 cubic yards of sand placed on the Moses beaches in March to replenish lost sand from a series of storms last winter.

"It's too soon to say" what the impact would be for park visitors this summer, Foley said. He added engineers will survey the park's remaining sand stockpile Thursday to see how much is available for emergency repairs if they are needed, and what funding is available to move the sand. He also held out hope that some of the sand could be naturally replenished.

Park officials estimate there is less than 200,000 cubic yards of sand still in the stockpile. The replenishment at Moses last year cost just under $1 million and was paid for with FEMA reimbursements for past damage.

The $10-million preliminary estimate of damage to public property in Suffolk does not include the state beaches or losses suffered in Babylon, Brookhaven and Southampton.

Then FEMA and state officials will determine if the storm meets the threshold of at least $4.5 million in damage in Suffolk - as well as $25 million statewide - so local governments can get reimbursed.

Where there was damage only to natural features like beaches, the state and federal officials said, it is unlikely that federal money would cover beach replenishment.

Shortly after noon Wednesday, one team from FEMA and its state counterpart visited the Block Island Sound shoreline in Montauk. Members stopped at a Town of East Hampton parking lot whose edge had been undermined by the storm.

As town workers spread sand dumpedby county trucks, East Hampton Supervisor Bill Wilkinson said, "We're going to have to put in some kind of bulkhead here - rock or steel. It just keeps eroding."

At Montauk Point State Park, park manager Tom Dess said erosion had shifted 5-ton boulders placed to protect the Montauk Point Lighthouse. Pointing north and west, he said, "There used to be a trail here. Now, not anymore."

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