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Montauk awaits Irene's arrival

Designer Cynthia Rowley's shop in Montauk boarded up

Designer Cynthia Rowley's shop in Montauk boarded up for Hurricane Irene. (Aug. 27, 2011) Photo Credit: Erin Geismar

In typical Montauk fashion, businesses were boarding up on Saturday but not without a lighthearted stab at the Hurricane Irene hysteria.

“Welcome Irene, Bob was here ‘91’” was scrawled across wood panels in black spray paint on one.

“Charlie Sheen was just here, has anyone seen Irene?” marked the spot for Shagwong Restaurant and Bar.

“Rock ‘n’ Roll baby,” signed with an ‘XOX’ was written outside designer Cynthia Rowley’s shop, which borders the Memory Motel made infamous in the 1976 ballad by the Rolling Stones.

Other storefronts used the boards to advertise hurricane fashion, hurricane sales and hurricane drinks.

But playfulness aside, Montauk was preparing for whatever came its way.

East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson was sitting at the entrance to the Montauk Playhouse on Saturday afternoon, where the Montauk Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary is set to run an evacuation center. Another evacuation center, manned by the Red Cross, is set up at East Hampton High School.

About 30 cots were set up in the second-floor gymnasium of the playhouse, and Wilkinson said the space could fit about 100 people, if necessary. The concern was mainly for low-lying areas of Montauk, like Ditch Plains, he said.

“The Ditch Plains area is vulnerable,” he said, adding that the Red Cross sent out “reverse 9-1-1” calls to residents in that and other danger zones last night alerting them to the threat of heavy rain, floods and power surges.

But no one had checked in to the emergency shelter by 4 p.m., though residents trickled in and out to ask questions - not quite sure yet if they would leave their homes.

Dorothy Poli, who lives in New York City and stays with family in Ditch Plains, said she was worried about her 80-year-old mother.

“It would be good for her to be with other people if we need help,” she said. “Plus, I don’t have a radio.”

She said she was going to wait it out and see how the storm hits the area early Saturday night.

Dorothy Malik, 74, who lives in an elevated section of Montauk with a view of the ocean, is a member of the ladies auxiliary and was helping out at the playhouse. She said she remembers the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, which surprised Montauk with torrential rains and ocean waves that Malik said were 60 feet tall.

“Montauk was sitting by itself,” she said, because the Napeague stretch, the narrow stretch of road that connects Montauk to the rest of East Hampton town, was under water.

“There was even water in town,” she said. “Gradually, it left. It was a very strange thing. That may never happen again, but it was scary.”

Poli said there were pros and cons to staying or leaving, but she couldn’t help but think about the panic over Hurricane Earl last year, which left the area unscathed.

“I don’t think there is a perfect answer,” she said.


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