Battening down the hatches ahead of Irene

PETER REICH PHOTO | The South Ferry's Lt. Joseph Theinert was safely moored in West Neck Harbor on Friday to ride out Hurricane Irene. A second boat was to be moored there Saturday morning.

Shelter Islanders secured boats, bought supplies and made plans for avoiding or riding out the storm Friday as a hurricane watch was changed to a warning for Long Island Friday and Hurricane Irene neared the North Carolina coast with sustained winds of 100 mph.

The watch was changed to a warning early Friday evening. A warning means means hurricane force winds of at least 74 mph are expected, with tropical force winds (39 to 73 mph) hitting within 36 hours.

A warning means: “Now is the time to rush to completion preparations for the protection of life and property,” the NWS announced.

The NWS has predicted that the worst effects of the unusually large storm would be felt in the area beginning late Saturday night through Sunday afternoon. The first effects are likely to begin to impact the area Saturday afternoon, the NWS said.

During the height of the storm, torrential rains are possible with damaging winds and significant coastal flooding. There is a potential for major damage from coastal flooding if the greatest surge occurs during high tides on Sunday, according to the NWS. The highest tides will be late morning and late night after 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. this weekend.

Because Irene is so large, with storm winds extending across nearly 600 miles, it appeared likely the worst winds and rain would occur during two high tides.

Among cancellations, Shelter Island’s annual snapper derby has been postponed from this Saturday to next Saturday, September 3 because of Hurricane Irene.

Also postponed was the Shelter Island Fire Department’s annual Country Fair, which includes a pig roast, live music, games and contests. Originally scheduled for Saturday, August 27, it will be held next Saturday, September 3 from 12 to 4 p.m. at the Center fire house.

The Shelter Island Historical Society has cancelled a talk planned for Sunday by Timothy Dering on ocean rescue boats.

Union Chapel’s service for Sunday, August 28, at 10:30 has been cancelled.

The Chamber of Commerce annual Art Show and Craft Fair set for Saturday at the school was postponed to the following Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 .m.

At mid-day Friday, North Ferry posted on its website, Northferry.com, that it will provide full five-boat service through Saturday, August 27. Also posted there, and confirmed by North Ferry manager Bridg Hunt, service on Sunday, August 28 — when Irene’s most intense effects are expected — will be limited or interrupted “during periods of high tides and/or extreme wind.” One of North Ferry’s boats had been secured in Greenport by Friday midday and two were to be secured at slips on Shelter Island.

At South Ferry, one boat was put in West Neck Harbor on Friday and another boat will be moored there on Saturday, leaving two boats running during the period of the storm.

The ferries companies typically operate during hurricanes as long as they can.

As Irene became the focus of most conversations Friday, residents became more focused on what needed to be done to prepare for her visit. That included stocking up on batteries. As of mid-afternoon on Friday, David Gurney at Shelter Island Ace Hardware in the Heights said that his inventory was low but that he was expecting a delivery on Saturday.

The IGA grocery store experienced a pre-storm rush, too, according to manager Sam Jack. He said that the store had restocked its shelves and would be doing so again on Saturday.

“We plan to stay open on Sunday,” Mr. Jack said, weather and power permitting. The store does have a generator but another factor in the store staying open would be the safety issue for employees, he said.

At Fedi’s, Jan Warner said that they planned to stay open through the storm. “We have a generator,” she said, so a power outage won’t be a problem.

Homeowners like Candido and Mary Rocha, who recently bought their home here, spent the morning Friday putting up plywood to protect windows.

James Brantuk of the Island Boatyard on Menantic Road stopped his hurricane preparations for a few minutes to talk about Irene. “I’m not as worried about the winds as I am about the water,” he said, noting that the second highest tide of the year would occur at 11 p.m. on Saturday night, not long before the heart of storm was expected approach the area. The IBY crew was working “full out,” he said, hauling boats out of the water.

Most of the transient boaters were headed for home, he said. Twenty years ago, when Hurricane Bob hit, some of the boaters had to take shelter in the school during the worst part of the storm.

At 11 a.m. on Friday, Shelter Island’s Emergency Preparedness Team met at Town Hall to discuss plans. Ram Island was one of the topics of the meeting and it was decided that evacuation of Ram Island would be a last step, depending on whether or not the causeway becomes impassable. It appeared likely that areas of Ram Island would be cut off.

Around noon on Friday, an Island resident called the Reporter office and asked if it were true that the Island was being evacuated. She said that someone had called her and told her an evacuation had been ordered. “I’ve lived here for years and that never happened before,” she said. No evacuation order had been issued for the Island by Friday evening.

Readers with photos or accounts of storm preparations as well as storm conditions or damage should email them to [email protected]

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