In Southampton, Irene Blew In the First Hints of Fall

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. — It was fall on Monday in this seaside resort village, temperature in the 70s, not a drop of humidity, the wind virtually silent. Ideal conditions to rake the leaves.

Well, no, of course it was still August, and summer cadences remained in effect. But if little else, the tease that Hurricane Irene brought to the East End of Long Island was predominantly bushels of leaves strangled from the trees by the storm’s whipping winds. Here, there, everywhere, people were raking lawns. Many had no power, so why not indulge in outdoor muscle power.

Snow plows, in fact, ordered by the village were cruising the streets, sweeping branches and brush out of the way to the curb.

It was mostly about trees and wind in the Hamptons, as Irene withheld all but speckles of rain. The gusting wind announced itself on Saturday evening and was still kicking up mischief past midnight Sunday, into Monday. Its perseverance brought down trees, coated properties with leaves and shredded branches and halted electric power.

The ocean surge breached the ocean dunes and flooded Meadow Lane, the main village beach street, but it was passable by late morning on Sunday and dry on Monday.

Like the other towns out here, Southampton ordered mandatory evacuations from the beach houses along the water and for owners of low-lying dwellings. The village’s mayor, Mark Epley, said with a wry smile, “We had about an 85 percent noncompliance rate.”

It didn’t matter. Mr. Epley said he had not heard of any serious house damage.

By boarding the front with plywood, like a good many local businesses, Silver’s, a popular cafe on the village’s main street, managed once again to avoid any breakage in the glass panes in its front. It mattered. The glass goes back to 1913, according to Garrett Wellins, the owner and chef, a man who likes to put the finishing scorch marks on his burgers with a blowtorch.

If you were looking for a flattened building, it was necessary to go into town, to the Southampton Historical Museum on Meeting House Lane. On its property of imitation structures from the early days of the village, a tremendous tree, rotting in the middle, crashed down on the blacksmith shop, leveling it — the one known destroyed building.

Tom Edmonds, the museum’s executive director, said the small shop replicated the real shop from the 19th century of E. & C. Bennett Practical Horse Shoers. Once or twice a year, a working East Hampton blacksmith named John Battles arranged himself inside to demonstrate his forging abilities for visitors. He made some hinges for the museum buildings.

When Mr. Edmonds stopped by on Sunday to see how things were doing, he happened on a man helping himself to artifacts from the blacksmith shop. He shooed him away.

It was also true that another nearby resident discovered that someone had filched the canoe he had stored in his backyard. He was unsure whether it was storm related or purely one of those crimes of opportunity.

The worst hit part of the area actually appeared to be Hampton Bays, a few miles further west, where Dune Road along the ocean became impassable and houses suffered hurricane damage.

Steve Funsch, the Southampton Village administrator, lives in Hampton Bays. He had basement water damage, and five 25-foot-tall trees on his property were toppled, even though they had been anchored with 3/8th-inch steel cables.

The ocean waves were still nasty on Monday in Southampton. The beaches remained closed. The day, though, was too spectacular. At Cooper’s Beach, the village’s main beach, the parking lot was blocked off, but dozens of beachgoers parked in the tow-away zones on the street and advanced their tans anyway. Small children erected sand castles.

“This was not the ‘dude hurricane’ they promised,” said a pockmarked young man wading in the rough surf with his girlfriend.

“It was a puppy hurricane,” she said.

The evening beach movie, “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” was still on.

At the nearby Meadow Club, tennis players whacked balls back and forth on the grass courts, dressed as always in white only.

Even on Sunday, with the wind howling, thrill seekers paraded to the area beaches for what they expected to be a glimpse of history. The wind shot sand at you like BBs, and the waves were end-of-the-world quality. Unperturbed, a middle-age man sat on a bench and read sea stories from an over-size book, as four or five people listened. Coming down the road was a bushy-haired man with rippling muscles carrying a surfboard.

Local business owners worried about when sales would resume in earnest with power out in so much of the area and whispers that it could be a week or even two before it fully resumes, complicating the Labor Day weekend.

And opening day of the Hampton Classic horse show, one of the biggest in the country, was Wednesday, shoved back from Sunday.

One dress-shop owner said some of her customers, shaken by the warnings, had left as early as last Wednesday to be out of the area and she needed them back.

“I had no damage,” she said. “I would trade some damage for customers.”

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