Tree limbs began falling on Tuesday afternoon, as the far edge of weakened Tropical Storm Isaias crossed over eastern Long Island. No injuries were reported, though a moving vehicle’s windshield was cracked as it made a turn near our office on Main Street. Heavily leafed, the trees were sitting ducks, as it were, so gusts of wind reaching only to the low 40s seemed to do an out-of-scale amount of damage. Road crews mobilized to clear limbs from streets, then the sound of chain saws began. It seemed a reminder of the inevitable.
It has been a relatively long time since a tropical storm or hurricane hit Long Island straight on. So-called Superstorm Sandy was an extended flooding event. The center of mild-mannered Hurricane Bob in 1991 passed east of Montauk Point. The last significant hurricane, Gloria, in 1985, made landfall around the Queens-Nassau line on the 27th of September, causing hundreds of millions in damage and killing eight people. Power and telephone service in many places were knocked out for weeks. All this came from sustained winds that hit 75 in Bridgehampton and around 80 at Montauk Point.
The Great Hurricane of 1938, which made it into the history books, had winds of at least 115 miles per hour, according to the late Richard Hendrickson, whom everyone relied on for weather analysis over the years. It hit eastern Long Island on Sept. 21.
This is to say that it indeed can happen here, and that it has been a very long time since the trees have had any sort of significant natural pruning. From the looks of them waving in the breeze on Tuesday, a big one is considerably overdue.