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The Mast-Head: Recalling Sandy

Thu, 10/28/2021 - 11:08

For many of us, the windstorm that lingered from Tuesday into Wednesday brought to mind 2012 and Superstorm Sandy, which paralyzed the Northeast. Oct. 28 of that year had been still and warm enough that two of the Rattray children had gone swimming at the copper-gold end of the day.

By midmorning on Oct. 29, the bay that had seemed unthreatening the night before had risen against the dunes, nearly cresting over in places. The water was an opaque yellow as it sped parallel above the submerged beach from east to west like a flood river of silt.

Before the storm arrived, my friend Jameson had suggested we strap a hunting camera to something to record what happened at intervals. But the trees were already shaking in the wind when we got near the bay. With nothing stable to mount the camera on, we gave up.

Walking back against the wind, it occurred to me that figuring out what to do about raising the house and moving it back from the shore suddenly was my problem, not my children’s. In that instant, the inevitable had jumped a generation.

Jameson and I briefly went inside to move a few things out of the half-basement in case the water overtopped the dunes. Then we left. He went back home to Sag Harbor, and I to the office to wait it out.

For the most part, Sandy itself did the usual damage of a tropical storm or hurricane here. There was beach loss along the ocean, notably in Montauk, but the wind and water settled back as October turned into November. But the disruption of the electricity supply was significant. Then the gasoline ran out.

Since then, hardest-hit New York City has been fortified against floodwaters, though not enough for there to really be a sense of security. Out here, though, there is a more fatalistic view that living on a sandspit 100 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean will come at a tremendous cost. The only big question is when.


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