Good Morning
Good Morning

Tropical Storm Irene's eye misses Long Island, LIPA says 466,241 lose power

Hurricane Irene's winds push water from the Atlantic

Hurricane Irene's winds push water from the Atlantic Ocean over the beach onto the roadway in Montauk. (Aug. 28, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Irene spent a memorable late summer weekend on Long Island, leaving her mark with strong winds that knocked out power to more than 450,000 customers and a surge of tidal water that turned some streets of coastal communities into rivers.

The storm -- which brought drenching rains to the west and gusty winds to the east -- weakened slightly to tropical storm status and the eye moved inland Sunday morning without hitting Nassau and Suffolk.

As Irene moved into the area the storm packed winds that topped out at 71 mph in East Moriches at 6:20 a.m. The winds toppled trees and utility poles, and knocked out power to more than one-third of Long Island's 1.1 million LIPA customers.

Rainfall amounts varied widely across the Island, but were lesser toward the East End. The 7:30 a.m. reading showed that Montauk had barely half an inch, Orient had .38 of an inch, East Farmingdale had 3.46 inches and North Babylon had 3.03 inches. Central Park saw 5.4 inches.

Babylon Town Supervisor Steve Bellone said there was a lot of coastal flooding and trees down, "but it could have been much worse. . . . We dodged a bullet here."

Bob DeBona of the Mastic Beach Property Owners Association had a different view from his neighborhood.

"There's probably two feet (of water) in front of my house," DeBona said. "This is the most I've seen with any of the hurricanes. . . Even though we didn't get hit directly, the winds were howling. "The trees were bending."

Mayor Pat Irving declared a state of emergency in the Village of Asharoken on Sunday after closing Asharoken Avenue, the only road that connects Asharoken and Eatons Neck to the rest of Long Island.

In a written statement, village officials said conditions at the sea wall that protects Asharoken Avenue "have worsened to the point where vehicular travel in that area has become dangerous."

The village also noted that many of the dunes along Asharoken Avenue "are likely to breach before high tide at 11:10 a.m. on Sunday."

Village officials estimated that the road would be closed for at least several hours, unless they find that the road is damaged.

Much of Eatons Neck is without power, the statement continued, but utilities remain on in the village.

Several major roads around the island had flooding or trees down, including parts of the Long Island Expressway, Jericho Turnpike and Montauk Highway.

Dune Road in Hamptons Bays was closed in both directions due to flooding, and the Ponquogue Bridge was also closed, Southampton Town officials said.

And officials urged onlookers to stay off the roads during the town's state of emergency.

Officials say that only emergency workers should be on the road, and curiosity seekers are putting themselves and emergency responders at risk by taking to the road.

"Please assist us by not becoming a part of the tasks at hand," the town said in a statement.

There were multiple washovers on Fire Island, the City of Long Beach had its lifeguard station washed up the beach and into the boardwalk, and there were scattered reports of motorists whose cars were submerged after they defied advice to the contrary and took to the roads.

Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg, a Democrat who lives in Long Beach, said the shorefront building he lives in had little damage, and the inland streets had been flooded.

"We have no beach. It's completely under water," he said.

Several town officials said they would not know the extent of the damage for several hours because work crews had not been deployed during the period of high wind overnight, and some crews could not touch downed trees that had struck what appeared to be electrical wires.

And even after the bulk of the storm passed, officials were still fearful tonight's high tide cycle could cause further flooding. The flooding at morning high tide was not as bad as expected in some places, according to county officials, who said tidal surges that were expected to be eight feet higher than normal were actually 3 to 5 feet.

The eye of the storm made landfall in Brooklyn at 8:30 a.m. and the National Hurricane Center downgraded Irene to a tropical storm at 9 a.m., saying its maximum sustained winds were 65 mph.

Officials kept a close eye on coastal communities as the storm approached.

National Guard troops were en route to Long Beach, which had been inundated east to west with water, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said at about 9 a.m.

Mangano said the county received a call Sunday morning from Long Beach Fire Department Chief Robert Smith, who said Long Beach was flooded and requested emergency assistance.

County officials were also watching the South Shore's barrier islands and Freeport, as well as Bayville on the North Shore.

Meteorologist Gary Cone of the National Weather Service in Upton had said earlier in the day that tides would surge 4 to 6 feet higher than normal, and it takes a surge of 1 1/2 to 2 feet above normal high tide to produce moderate flooding.

Outages from Hurricane Irene exceeded 456,006 as of 11:30 a.m., according to LIPA, surpassing even the total number knocked out during last year's devastating nor'easter. It took LIPA and outside crews nearly a week to fully restore power then.

Outages are spread throughout the Island, and LIPA said it was still too early to deploy crews to restore power.

With winds already reaching 55 mph in early morning, the Nassau County Police Department advised its officers to seek shelter, but ordered them back on patrol at 7 a.m. when the winds lessened. However, the department continued to warn motorists to stay off the roads.

Mangano, speaking from the county's Office of Emergency Management headquarters in Bethpage, said officials there had received reports of downed trees, debris-strewed roads and four fires. No one was injured in the fires, he said.

Nassau police said as of 6 a.m. there were 235 calls regarding downed wires or sparking of wires.

The outages are spread out across Long Island, with many of them in the towns of Hempstead and Brookhaven.

In Nassau County, Long Beach Road was flooded out between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway in early morning, and in Suffolk County a downed tree closed westbound lanes of Jericho Turnpike near Round Swamp Road about 2 a.m. A tree was down in the westbound lanes at Route 135 and Sunrise Highway in Seaford, officials said.

There were scattered power outages in Wading River and Jamesport from fallen trees. About half a dozen trees partially or fully blocking roads. There were no reported injuries.

The lifeguard station near the Boardwalk in Long Beach came off its foundation and was next to the Boardwalk. It was not broken into pieces, according to Jon Kelley, a lawyer who lives in a high-rise building in the air.

"The ocean just picked it up and plopped it down next to the Boardwalk," he said. "The waves are huge. It's raining real hard and the wind is screaming."

The lifeguard station is two stories and is located near the center of the 2 1/2-mile Boardwalk.

As the storm hit Long Island, Federal Emergency Management Agency officials stationed in Suffolk County were waiting for its aftermath.

Stephen M. DeBlasio Sr., the official in charge of the Suffolk County contingent of FEMA, said his team's work doesn't really begin until after the storm has passed.

"It's a wait-and-see right now," DeBlasio said.

As soon as the storm passes, small groups of local, state and federal officials will fan out across Long Island to assess the damage and direct resources such as food, water and emergency generators to the areas hardest hit, he said.

The teams will also assess local infrastructure, and will put a package together to send to New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who can then decide whether to request a major disaster declaration, which can free up federal money for the recovery.

As of early Sunday morning, DeBlasio said, it was so far, so good.

"We're not hearing any major infrastructure damage at this point," he said.

Public transit systems across the metropolitan area remained shut down. Throughout the day Saturday, hundreds of thousands were ordered to evacuate as outer bands from Irene lashed the region through the afternoon. Into the night, officials encouraged people to stay inside.

All area airports were closed late Saturday with no scheduled reopening.

With Jennifer Barrios, James T. Madore, Matthew Chayes, Kery Murakami and Tania Lopez

More news