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Experts: Wind is More of a Concern Than Rainfall As Irene Hits the North Fork

Weather observer and town trustee agree that wind will be a problem as Hurricane Irene passes through locally; Southold Town sticks to emergency plan.

National and regional newscasts have for days now been focusing on the effects of Hurricane Irene on the South and North Shores of Long Island, but little has been reported on what exactly we will be experiencing on the North Fork underneath the right-hand side of the

According to Len Llewellyn, Mattituck resident and cooperative observer for the National Weather Service, wind will be the primary source of damage over rainfall on the North Fork.

“The storm track seems to be coming along the Nassau, western Suffolk line,” he said. “I think what we’ll be seeing is high winds, and I think that is what we should be concerned about in our preparation.”

The storm's full effects are currently being felt along the North Carolina coast, causing thousands to lose power. As of 11 a.m. on Saturday, Irene is a Category 1 storm with 85 mph winds, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Storm surges from Peconic Bay, the Long Island Sound and surrounding creeks also concern Southold Town Trustee Jill Dougherty — especially in low-lying areas on the North Fork such as in Southold, Rabbit Lane in East Marion and the whole of

“People who have never been flooded before will probably experience some flooding with this one,” she said. “They’re going to have to prepare for that.”

Dougherty added that erosion-prone areas like the bluffs at in Mattituck and the shoreline at in Southold — which already took a beating this past winter during several blizzards — will lose even more beach after Irene passes through.

“But again, it all depends on what Irene delivers and the way the wind blows— we could lose a lot of beach; we could experience water being pushed into the creeks and the ground water by the tidal surge, and the ground is soft so we could see a lot of down trees,” she said. “But I’ve been seeing a lot of people take their boats out of the water and I know people are taking this storm seriously."

Lloyd Reisenberg, Asst. Deputy Emergency Preparedness Coordinator for and member of the said that the town is sticking to its initial emergency management plan as of early Saturday afternoon after being fed constant reports and advice from NOAA and Suffolk County Fire and Rescue. and schools across the North Fork will be open at 7 p.m. on Saturday as planned for residents and their pets.

“We’ve been in contact every hour with NOAA and the county, and we’re sticking with the plan and will play it by ear,” he said. “Right now you never know how things could change — Irene could drop to a tropical storm."

Reisenberg added that people have the option of evacuating to higher middle ground further west or to one of the schools but it is not mandatory. He also expressed concern about flooding in low-lying areas that flood in heavy rain anyway.

Llewellyn agreed that he would not be surprised if there was more flooding than usual due to storm surges but he didn’t think the North Fork would see that much rainfall.

“I don’t think we’ll get 6 to 10 inches,” he said. “But the Sound sure will be whipped up and people on the beach should be prepared.”

Stay tuned to North Fork Patch for updates as the hurricane approaches.

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