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Hurricane Lee Looks Like a Miss

Thu, 09/14/2023 - 11:11

Town’s preparedness coordinator advises vigilance

High surf associated with Hurricane Lee began to show up earlier this week.
Carissa Katz

Hurricane Lee was unlikely, as of Tuesday morning, to have a significant impact in East Hampton Town, the town’s emergency preparedness coordinator told the town board that day, and the National Hurricane Center’s forecast was mostly consistent with that prediction as of yesterday morning.

The Hurricane Center’s update at 8 a.m. yesterday had Lee, at present a Category 3 hurricane, moving in a northwest direction at six miles per hour: “A turn toward the north-northwest” was expected later yesterday, followed by a northward turn and an increase in speed today and tomorrow. Maximum sustained winds are near 115 miles per hour with higher gusts. “Slow weakening is forecast during the next few days; however, Lee is likely to remain a large and dangerous hurricane into the weekend.”

Bruce Bates told the board on Tuesday that residents should remain diligent in monitoring the storm’s path and expect some impact over the weekend. Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc said the surf “will begin to become high, certainly by Thursday. We expect some coastal erosion as a result, rip tides and whatnot.”

Of the National Hurricane Center’s update on Tuesday at 5 a.m., Mr. Bates said that “at this point it seems like it is rather favorable to us.” The hurricane is “meandering at a forward speed of seven miles per hour. In the next two days, the forward speed should be picking up, and if it gets anywhere near us the forward speed should be about 17 to 18 miles per hour and the winds will be decreasing.”

The forecast had the storm moving northward but remaining some 300 miles east of Montauk, Mr. Bates said. “In theory, if this track holds, we should be pretty much unscathed, with the exception of some surf, some rip currents, probably some breeze-type winds.” But it could deviate to the east or west, he added, “and it could become closer to us and give us more issues.”

But his expectation on Tuesday was that its forecast track will move slightly more to the east, “which is even better for us, but at this time it does not appear like there will be significant impact.”

The tone was markedly different in a Tuesday statement from Gov. Kathy Hochul, who deployed 50 National Guard soldiers “to begin preparations on Long Island as Hurricane Lee continues to move northwest and strengthen in the Atlantic Ocean.” State agencies are preparing for potential “dangerous high surf, rip currents, coastal flooding, and beach erosion along parts of the East Coast later this week” as the hurricane moves north.

“This is the time that people really need to be reviewing their personal preparedness for hurricanes,” said Supervisor Peter Van Scoyoc, “making sure that they continue to monitor the evolving forecast.” Vehicles’ fuel tanks should be filled ahead of any rush to filling stations, he said, and generators and flashlights should be tested. “This storm may not have direct impacts to us, but there might be another one right behind it that will.”

Indeed, Hurricane Margot, in the central Atlantic Ocean yesterday morning, is expected to move in “a north-northwestward or northward motion with a gradual decrease in forward speed” through early today. “Then, Margot is likely to stall or meander within weak steering currents into the weekend.”

There had been no decision to close beaches as of Tuesday, Mr. Bates told the board. As of yesterday morning, the forecast called for a 70-percent chance of rain on Saturday and sunshine on Sunday. “But the surf is going to start building Thursday into Friday,” he said. “People need to be aware of that.”

Last month, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center updated its prediction for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season from “near normal” to “above normal,” citing factors including record high sea surface temperatures. The Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, now predicts a 60-percent chance of between 14 and 21 named storms, of which six to 11 could become hurricanes, and two to five of them major hurricanes. An outlook issued in May predicted just a 30-percent likelihood of an above-average hurricane season. Storms that have already formed this season are included in the updated range.

Councilwoman Cate Rogers reminded residents to register to receive notifications, if they have not already done so. This can be done at the town’s website, ehamptonny.gov. “Be prepared, not scared,” she said.

“We’re in hurricane season full-on now,” Mr. Van Scoyoc said. “This is the time of year when we expect to have impacts from tropical storms and hurricanes.”

 

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