Hamptons Residents Reel as Superstorm Sandy Recedes

In sleepy Sag Harbor, residents are assessing the damage from Sandy, hunkering down for a sustained power outage—and queuing up for coffee on Main Street. Emily J. Weitz surveys the scene.

When we finally emerged from our respective dens Tuesday morning, bleary-eyed and skeptical of the crystal blue sky, we headed for the gathering places that make Sag Harbor, a village of 2,000 people on Long Island’s East End, such a close-knit community. The Cove Deli on Main Street buzzed with the sound of a generator, and the lights were dim but the doors thrown open. They were cooking egg sandwiches and brewing coffee, and we were grateful to score the last two rolls in the place. There was one bagel, which a woman snapped up for her 10-year-old son. No, there were no croissants today.

We headed down to the heart of Main Street, and even at 9:30 a.m. the Five and Dime was open. The lights were all out, but the shop was doing a brisk business, using calculators to ring people up for buckets and tape. The guys at the Hardware Store were in rubber suits, bailing out the basement.

Across the street, there was a line out the door at the Golden Pear, beside which Sylvester and Co., an upscale general store, and the local pizza place, Conca D’Oro, remained boarded up. I went to wait on line for a cup of coffee, and there was a hint of desperation in people’s eyes as they stood patiently. The coffee makers weren’t working. But the workers were carefully pouring pots of hot water over coffee filters, and we all nearly drooled as the dark brown, pungent liquid seeped through.

“We’ve got eggs!” someone shouted victoriously, and people shuffled excitedly in their places.

The relatively relaxed scene came as a relief to locals after Hurricane Sandy terrorized Long Island, killing four people as of Tuesday, including one person whose body had washed ashore in tony East Hampton, just seven miles from Sag Harbor. Across Suffolk and Nassau counties, the devastation was immense: homes were destroyed, roads submerged, piers and beaches wiped out altogether. Officials estimate the damage inflicted across the East Coast from Sandy will top Hurricane Irene's $15 billion price tag.

“By far it is the most devastating storm we’ve had on Long Island,” said Mark Gross, director of the Long Island Power Authority, which estimates residents of the East End could be without power for 10 days or longer. “Right now, we’re in the assessing stage but, obviously, with this many outages customers should be prepared to hang on for an extended period of time.”

From reports on Main Street here in Sag Harbor, about half of people had lost power, and you could tell those who had been able to shower before venturing to town, and those who had not.

Down the Long Wharf, the imposing Intuition super-yacht had braved the storm (after staff had allegedly spent $500 in last-minute purchases at Schiavoni’s market late Sunday night), though a 30-foot sailboat had gotten caught in its lines.

Bay Street had flooded in the course of the storm, as did Long Island Avenue. The parking lot behind town was a lake, with several unfortunate cars up to their windows in water.

“Everyone was getting their coffee at the Golden Pear,” said local resident Diana Stone. “And going to the parking lot, we felt like we were going to feed the ducks. My son said we should bring some bread, only there weren’t any ducks. People were in their boots wading into the water.”

Across the street from Dockside and the VFW, another 30-foot sailboat was capsized. A family posed for pictures in the roots of a 150-year-old maple tree overturned.

Down the road, Haven’s Beach was cut at least in half. Usually, the swingset and slide at Haven’s are set well back from the water, but it was clear that the tide had washed right over them. Around the ladder of the slide, seaweed was tangled. The swings were nearly dragging on the sand.

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By evening, those who hadn’t yet ventured from the house were jumping out of their skin. Temple Adas Israel, on top of a hill in the village, opened its doors all day for people to come use the power and the Internet connection, and plans to be open all week.

“I felt so alone and isolated,” said Jenifer Castillo, an 18-year-old Pierson High School senior. “We didn’t see anyone all day. It was boring at home with no power. Without Internet, you feel like you can’t do anything.”

On the South Side of Montauk Highway, the ocean is beginning to recede, but it pulls with it a haul of wreckage. The dunes at Mecox are all but gone, and Sagg Main beach is decimated as well.

"I went a couple of times," said Sagaponack resident Quentin Curry, "and it was fascinating to see the storm surge and what it did to Mecox, Georgica, Wainscott. The whole dune area in Wainscott is washed away and the water came up to Main Street. There was a house down that was gone—washed away in the ocean. The Bridgehampton Beach Club at Mecox? Used to be a dune and now it's ocean straight through."

Some 20 miles east, the storm surge breached the dunes over onto Napeague, the long, thin stretch of land that separates Montauk from Amagansett—leaving many in Montauk wonder if they would be stranded at the very eastern tip of Long Island.

“This is not like anything we’ve seen before,” said Carl Darenberg, owner of the Montauk Marine Basin. “That kind of surge—that’s not like anything we’ve seen before.”

In the three days before the storm, Darenberg hauled in more than 100 boats from the basin, worried the boats would otherwise be swept out to sea in the storm surge.

Darenberg, who was born and raised in Montauk—along with his father and grandfather—said he never entertained any notion of leaving.

“We’ve had storms at this time of year before, but nothing as bad as this one,” Darenberg said.

Deborah Choron, who moved to Montauk at the end of summer, said she saw “many, many trees uprooted” and headed to East Hampton to wait out the storm.

Now that Sandy has passed, people are gathering together to sort through the wreckage. Eat-everything-in-your-fridge parties and candlelight game nights will still be on the agenda for many out here, even into next week.

“People are still a little tense,” says Christian McLean, another Sag Harbor resident. “There’s still this scavenger-type feel. I guess we’ll spend the coming days waiting for power to get back on, waiting to get on with our lives.”