On Wednesday, Ralph and Patricia Cusimano decided to haul out of the water their 50 foot power boat, “Polar Bear” just to be on the safe side as hurricane Earl starts its run up the mid-Atlantic Coast.
He has cause for caution. At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the National Hurricane Center said Earl had reintensified to a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained winds of 135 miles per hour. In addition, it issued tropical storm warnings from North Carolina to Sandy Hook, N.J. And it issued hurricane watch alerts for Woods Hole and Sagamore Beach in Massachusetts.
Tropical force winds are expected to hit the New Jersey coast starting on Friday morning as the storm accelerates northward. The latest forecasts still have Earl skimming the East Coast, with sustained tropical storm-force winds of at least 73 m.p.h. and hurricane-force gusts hitting eastern Long Island Friday afternoon.
That’s one of the reasons why two men are putting together plywood frames to cover the glass windows at the Martha Greene real estate office. And at the Cross Eyed Clam Bar & Grill, one of the chefs talked about having a hurricane party to get rid of food if the restaurant loses power.
But, for the most part, residents here – like many people on the East Coast, are in a state of limbo, waiting to see if Earl decides to listen to the weather forecasters and start to head out to sea. If that happens, Montauk will get some wind – which is nothing new around here – and prepare for Labor Day weekend.
“We don’t do anything about it until we know what’s going to happen,” says Tara Anfuso, who has lived in Montauk for 13 years.
And around this relaxed town at the eastern tip of Long Island, the talk is about what a great summer it has been – with hardly any rain on the weekends. Some of the locals are still jazzed over the big ocean swells that Hurricane Danielle brought to the surfing scene last week. But other than that, most locals are hard-pressed to think of any clouds on the horizon – except worries about where to find elusive schools of bluefish.
Suffolk County officials, perhaps reflecting the general uncertainty, had not decided by late Wednesday whether to begin evacuations in low lying areas such as Fire Island or a mobile home community in River Head. A state official said he had not heard of any evacuations yet.
The county’s dilemma was reflected on the streets of Montauk.
“It’s hard to tell if it’s coming or not,” says Julia Stavola as she mans the phones at the Town & Country Real Estate office in Montauk. “If it comes, it looks like it will be Friday night, so at least a lot of people won’t be on the road.”
And Marisa Olden, a waitress at the Cross Eyed Clam asked, “What can you do about it?”
In Oyster Bay, further west in Nassau County, Warren Kaplan had an answer: prepare. He spent part of Wednesday morning on his 27 foot Cape Dory sailboat, securing lines, duck taping vents closed and deflating his inflatable raft. “If it doesn’t come, I’ll put it all back together with a smile on my face,” he says.