This story was reported by John Asbury, Vera Chinese, Cecilia Dowd, Mark Harrington and Keldy Ortiz. It was written by Dandan Zou.
Long Islanders breathed a sigh of relief Sunday as the region was spared the worst impact from Tropical Storm Henri, which had been forecast to bring hurricane-force winds and cause power outages that could last for up to two weeks.
Like many Island residents who spent the better part of Saturday preparing, Bill Hulse bought 25 gallons of gas, stocked up on groceries and took out cash from an ATM.
"I think we pretty much lucked out," said Hulse of Riverhead late Sunday morning at Riverhead’s Main Street. "Time to take the dog for a walk."
For Jax Hartmann of Riverhead: "I feel there’s a lot of hype for a lot of nothing."
Further east in Greenport, David Berson was thankful the storm appeared to have spared the village.
"I’ve been full of anxiety," said Berson, who runs a solar-powered tour boat off Preston’s Dock. "Any time you own an object that floats in the water, you’re anxious about it."
Berson said he was grateful to Mother Nature for not striking the island directly.
Henri made landfall along the coast of Rhode Island around 12:15 p.m., packing high winds that knocked out power to tens of thousands of homes and bands of rain that led to flash flooding from New Jersey to Massachusetts.
"I think it was a great exercise in preparedness," Berson said. "I am really delighted that everybody got their act together."
Earlier in the day in Montauk, where hours later the storm’s center brushed by, Edward Etson was one of the few people visible in town around 6 a.m.
Etson, a visitor from Hempstead who said he was on vacation in the hamlet and got stranded, was waiting on the bus to Riverhead, his bags gathered around him.
Asked if he was concerned about the weather, Etson said: "I’m a nature person, so I like to see what it looks like."
As most Long Islanders hunkered down at home Sunday, the forecast did not stop those determined to continue their routine.
Debbie Campbell, 60, of East Patchogue took her morning walk down South Country Road in Bellport in the rain, wearing a poncho and carrying an umbrella.
"It’s not as bad as I thought," Campbell said. "People may think I’m crazy, but I also go out in the snow."
Storm or not, Geri Strebel of East Moriches said she was not going to be deterred from her daily walk of four miles around her neighborhood. Earlier in the morning, she also went to her garden to say hello to her black-eyed Susan flowers after seeing the projected storm path had shifted east.
"The storm was not as bad as we thought it was, and it was great Moriches didn’t get hit at all," Strebel said. "I prayed East Moriches would be OK because we have a lot of big trees around here. I wasn’t afraid of it at all."
The forecast also did not deter others from surfing and storm-watching.
Bill Luzzi traveled from Lynbrook to Long Beach and believed the conditions were fine for him to surf.
"They’re about head-high, fun, clean waves, and the wind is cooperating right now, creating fun surfing conditions," Luzzi said. "When you spend a lot of time around the ocean … you know your limits, and I wasn’t really hesitant at all."
Stormwatchers gathered under a gazebo at Corey Beach in Blue Point. Diners braved the forecast to eat at Buttermilk’s Kitchen, one of the few Patchogue businesses open Sunday morning, as most streets were deserted during heavy rain.
In Long Beach, Don Pearl walked along the beach dressed in a yellow poncho and shorts and holding his sneakers.
"You can’t ask for anything better being by the water, rain or shine," said Pearl, who moved from Staten Island to Long Beach three years ago. "My plan was to come out to see the storm."
Brynn Caponi and her husband, Lou, walked near their East Moriches home Sunday with their son, Easton, 14 months, and their dog. Preparing for the worst Saturday, the couple had tied their outdoor furniture down in their backyard.
"It's been exciting, I think. It's been fun. Yeah, I feel like the storm didn't totally live up to the hype, but … ," Brynn Caponi said before her husband finished her thought, saying, "But that's a good thing. That's a good thing for our backyard."