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Town department heads meet to craft a plan of action for storm: Supervisor issues emergency declaration

Shelter Island Town department managers, covering the Police, Fire, Highway and Building  departments, along with Emergency Medical Services, Senior Services,  and the Recreation Department met Saturday morning to discuss plans for a hurricane set to strike the East End Sunday. Supervisor Gerry Siller and Deputy Supervisor Amber Brach-Williams also sat in on the Zoom session.

After the meeting, Supervisor Gerry Siller issued an emergency declaration order, which will close all town beaches and parks tomorrow and ban all traffic except for emergency from 6 a.m. Sunday to 6 a.m. Monday. (See below.)

Tropical Storm Henri has continued to pick up speed as it makes its way to Long Island, where confidence is building that the storm will make landfall Sunday with destructive winds and a life-threatening storm surge, the National Weather Service said in its morning briefing Saturday.

It is expected to make landfall over the East End as a Category 1 hurricane early Sunday afternoon.

Estimates vary, but Police Chief Jim Read, who is the emergency management coordinator for the town, said there is a possibility of sustained winds of 50 mph and gusting as high as 70 mph at the height of the storm, with a storm surge of 3 to 4 feet.

Chief Read discussed the possibility of opening shelters — which he described “as a last resort” — at the Senior Services building and at the school, urging everyone who needs shelter to first rely on family, friends or neighbors.  

The town will be prepared to put up people in B&Bs, rather than open public shelters. But if the need is there, the town is preparing the Senior Center and the school.

One major concern is Ram Island, which could be cut off by high tides and a storm surge, and there would be no access for emergency vehicles, Chief Read asked residents to access the Code Red emergency communication service for the town, and urged the frail elderly and people with disabilities living in the Ram Island area to find shelter at a friend’s home during the storm from early Sunday morning through Monday morning or until the storm passes.  Should this not be possible, please call 631-749-0600 to arrange for other means of sheltering.

Other vulnerable areas for severe  flooding are Silver Beach, Montclair and Bridge Street.

Senior Services have been in contact with the most vulnerable of the senior population to find them shelter.

All municipal  buildings in  the Center will be able to resort to generators if power is lost. The chief said there is a possibility that power could be out for 72 hours or more, and asked all residents to have enough food and water for that time frame.

The Fire Department will be coordinating evacuations, if  necessary, and the Center Firehouse will be used for first responders and PSEG crews for rest and food breaks.

High tides Sunday are at 10:45 a.m. and about 11 p.m. Bridg Hunt, general manager of North Ferry, said there will be reduced service tomorrow, and service might be shut down at times except for emergency medical services. South Ferry will be in the same situation. One North Ferry boat will be “mothballed” on the Greenport side, Mr. Hunt said. He, along with Chief Read, asked that there be no “unnecessary travel” tomorrow.

PSEG crews will be on the first boat at about 6 a.m. tomorrow morning from Greenport.

Communication is key, the chief said, and asked residents to watch for updates on the town’s website — shelterislandtown.us/. For emergencies, residents should call 911, and all other calls should go to Shelter Island Police Department/ Emergency Management at 631-749-0600.  For power outages, or to report downed wires, call PSEG Long Island’s 24-hour Electric Service number: 800-490-0075.

Below is Supervisor Siller’s emergency declaration order.


Whereas Hurricane Henri may create life-threatening situations throughout the Town of Shelter Island; and

Whereas Shelter Island is surrounded by water and thus especially vulnerable to flooding, creating grave concerns for people living in low lying areas or areas that may be cut off from the rest of the Island due to flooding; and

Whereas there are additional concerns regarding erosion, downed trees and power lines, loss of electricity and cessation of ferry operations;

Now, therefore I, Gerard F. Siller, Supervisor of the Town of Shelter Island do declare a State of Emergency within the Town of Shelter Island, County of Suffolk, State of New York commencing August 22, 2021 at 6:00 AM pursuant to Section 24 of Article 2-b of the Executive Law.

Pursuant to Section 24 of Article 2-b of the Executive Law, I direct the following:

I.  The non-mandatory evacuation of residents of Ram Island and of low-lying coastal areas. Residents are advised that emergency services may not be available during the storm and that they remain at their own risk.

  • Closing all roads except for emergency traffic between 6:00 AM Sunday August 22, 2021 and 6:00 AM Monday August 23, 2021. Residents are further advised that ferry services may be limited or unavailable.
  • The Closing of all Shelter Island Town Beaches, parks and preserves from 6:00 AM Sunday August 22, 2021 through 6:00 AM Monday August 23, 2021.
  • Implementation of the Town of Shelter Island Emergency Operations Plan & staffing of the Emergency Operations Center.
  • All Town of Shelter Island departments to take such actions as are necessary to protect the public safety and to render all required and available assistance to protect the security, well-being, health and property of residents.
  • All residents of the town are encouraged to follow the latest weather and emergency notifications by local radio and television stations and the Town Web site and social media platforms.
  • Residents within the Town of Shelter Island are further urged to gather necessary storm provisions, flashlights, batteries, a portable radio, a supply of non­ perishable food and potable water and other essentials, in the event power is lost in their neighborhood.
  • Residents are cautioned to stay away from all downed wires as they may be energized and to report these conditions to PSEG.
  • Any person who knowingly violates any provision of this Order is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

This Order shall take effect immediately. It shall remain in effect for 5 days unless it is terminated at an earlier date.