Frigid temperatures and snow caused several accidents across the East End this week. Photo by Michael Heller
By Mara Certic
Everything seemed to slow down on the East End as winter weather reared its ugly head once again this weekend.
Just about every weekend for the past month has featured some weather event or another: First it was 2 feet of snow and blizzard conditions causing schools to shut for three days.
Then there was a mixture of freezing rain, sleet and snow, which delayed schools again. And now, this past weekend, dangerously frigid temperatures followed by periods of snow made driving difficult and led to frozen pipes all over the East End.
Snow began early on the afternoon of Saturday, February 14, and temperatures began to drop as Valentine’s Day dinners came to an end, with the National Weather Service reporting a low of 7 degrees at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip Sunday morning. Temperatures continued to plummet into Sunday morning, with lows around 0 degrees, and strong winds bringing the wind chill down to at least -10.
After a bit of a respite, temperatures are expected to plummet again later this week.
According to Southampton Town Police Sergeant Susan Ralph, there were several accidents over the weekend, and residents were reminded to stay off the roads if at all possible.
Temperatures, combined with biting, powerful winds, were so low that residents were reminded to bundle up and limit exposure to the elements, as there was a risk of frostbite.
So low, that many houses of worship cancelled their Sunday services, in order to prevent their parishioners from driving in what were hazardous conditions. The governing body of the Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church, however, decided it would take the opportunity to do something a little differently.
The church sent out an e-mail on Saturday night, asking its parishioners to stay home and instead watch the regular Sunday service live on the internet.
“Today is a historic first for Bridgehampton Presbyterian Church,” said Pastor Peter Sulyok in his welcoming announcement, according to a release issued by the church. “The blizzard of Valentine’s Day may have closed our building, but here in our warm and mostly empty sanctuary, the morning service will be the first internet-only service for one of the oldest churches on Long Island, founded in 1670.”
The Bridgehampton Fire Department was called to another church in Bridgehampton, Queen of Most Holy Rosary Catholic Church, late Monday night, after pipes froze and burst in the parish community center, causing a fire alarm to go off because of lack of pressure in the building’s sprinkler system.
The Town of East Hampton tentatively cancelled all activities at the Senior Center on Springs-Fireplace Road, after town workers discovered frozen pipes at the building.
“They discovered there was a frozen pipe last night,” said Diane Patrizio, the town’s director of human services. “We contacted everyone to say the senior center would be closed, but they raised the heat over night and this morning we realized the pipes had thawed,” she said on Tuesday morning.
The center reopened for lunch that day, but Ms. Patrizio said the town was not encouraging anyone to travel if they didn’t have to, given the slick roads. In the seven years Ms. Patrizio has worked for the Department of Human Services, she has never seen the pipes of the center freeze before, she said.
“Let’s hope it doesn’t happen again,” she said. “We were very lucky.”
Southampton Town Police urged residents to limit skin exposure and to be sure to bundle up and wear layers, if going outside over the weekend. During periods of extremely low temperature, the police go to areas where there are likely to be homeless people, and take them to nearby shelters.
Maureen’s Haven, a homeless outreach program based in Riverhead, was at full capacity all weekend, according to Tara Murphy, one of its program managers.
“We’ve had 30 plus people walk through our doors,” she said on Monday. “Cold nights we get a little bit of leniency—last night we took eight extra people, we really didn’t want to turn anyone away,” she added.
When the homeless shelter does have to turn someone away, it calls the County Department of Social Services, which then transport people to a shelter, usually farther Up Island.
In Montauk, Emergency Medical Technicians responded to a call of a woman who had been found in a vehicle with no heat on the beach. EMTs met her at the Montauk Police Substation, where they determined her vital signs were normal, but she was in a state of mental distress.
Officials continue to urge people to stay off the roads as temperatures are expected to drop again later in the week. According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature on Long Island for February 2014 was 28.7 degrees, this month the average so far has been 21.9 degrees. Temperatures are expected to dip to 0 or below both Thursday and Friday.
“It’s time to go to Florida,” said Sgt. Ralph.