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The Mast-Head: Cars on the Beach

Wed, 04/03/2024 - 11:38

The weather around here went to hell in a handbasket this week with a coastal storm pounding the beaches and a chance of snow on its backside as it raged out to sea. Felt like March weather, really, not April. Everything seems to be shifting meteorologically, with the heaviest conditions of the year falling at the margins of the traditional seasons.

Seeing a photograph of a rusted car frame tumbling from a dune recently reminded me of similar scenes that followed the Ash Wednesday storm in early March of 1962. Big northeasters are supposed to happen in late winter, not that far into March.

Poseidon and the terrestrial weather gods blew their collective stack along the Atlantic Coast over March 6 to 8. As the giant low crept slowly northeast, winds and flooding caused millions in damage over six states and were responsible for about 40 deaths.

Erosion on the ocean was severe. The Star reported that houses along West End Road in East Hampton Village were saved only through a massive effort that included dumping junk cars into the breach.

The “longwinded northeast gale,” also per The Star, chewed up dunes from Montauk to Shinnecock. Arthur M. Reese’s house at Town Line Road on the Sagaponack side was undercut and toppled onto the beach. Houses succumbed in Southampton and Westhampton. Tides at Three Mile Harbor were thought to be five feet above normal. In Montauk, the roof at the Viking Grill blew off. A house at Fresh Pond in Amagansett burned to the ground in 60-mile-an-hour winds.

Carcasses of cars have been exposed at Ditch Plain recently. This week’s blow will likely reveal more. But nowadays, we don’t dispose of our old junkers that way. No, we just pump millions of dollars in sand to cover them up once again.


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