Hardy Plumbing
January 05, 2011

Erosion Almost Claims Another Victim



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By Rick Murphy and Kitty Merrill

A determined effort by the local community saved a house from falling into the sea in the wake the massive Nor'Easter on December 26. But the severity of the storm reminded anew that the inevitable erosion that accompanies each storm undermines wide swaths of the East End.

In the case of the house fronting the Block Island Sound in the Soundview Drive area of Montauk, the grim reminder became a stark reality.

Susan Grimes from Keith Grimes Excavating Company said she received a frantic call that the DiVito residence on Captain Kidds Path in Montauk was hovering perilously over the water, its crawl space exposed and its bulkhead blown away.

"John Lycke, the house watcher, called us and we went on site," Susan Grimes related. The problem was that no restoration work could begin without an emergency permit from the Department of Environmental Conservation – the Grimes had been targeted by the DEC earlier this year for a dredging project in Montauk and weren't about to draw the agency's wrath again.

Drew Bennett, a local engineer, with the help of Building Inspector Tom Preiato and Brian Franks from the Planning Department, managed to reach the DEC and get the permit. Keith and Gary Grimes moved in first light December 28, with 18-wheel trucks, frantically moving sand underneath the foundation of the house to stabilize it. A neighbor agreed to allow the heavy equipment to come through his property.

"Guy Davis the house mover, was on hand to stabilize it," Grimes recounted. Lights were set up while workers set out to re-pour the crawl space and install temporary steel sheathing. Work continued until midnight Tuesday, until the house was stabilized.

While the DiVito home was harshest hit, it wasn't erosion's only prey. Police blocked off the parking lot at nearby Gosman's in Montauk, where the pernicious tide undermined the edge of the lot, carving out the dirt under the asphalt. According to East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker, "We initially put up a wooden barricade in the morning [of Dec. 27], and it actually was blown over, so, we had to go back that afternoon and lash it all down." Portions of Soundview Drive about 100 to 150 yards west of the parking lot were undermined as well, the chief reported. The wind and waves in the Block Island Sound were so severe the bell buoy broke free of its chain and "ended up at Culloden Point," Ecker related.

On the south side on Montauk, erosive conditions were noted at the Royal Atlantic Motel and Gurney's Inn. A polar bear plunge slated for New Year's Day at Gurney's was cancelled due to beach conditions.

A blockade shut off Gerard Drive in Springs, where the second causeway suffered an overwash, effectively cutting a portion of the road off from the mainland. Police closed the road on the afternoon of December 27. First the road was impassable because of flooding, Chief Ecker reported, "Then after several tides, the road took such a beating, it was impassable." Later in the week, crews from the town highway department "refurbished it the best they could," Ecker informed. The area is largely developed with modest second homes. The chief said police didn't receive any calls from residents stranded by the closure.

In the Southampton Town, erosion was less obvious this time around. Dune Road made it through the storm without severe flooding, though there were a few pockets in Hampton Bays.

On Monday, East Hampton town officials spoke with federal representatives in an effort to encourage them to inspect the damage wrought by the storm. Last Wednesday, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson wrote Congressman Tim Bishop and Senator Charles Schumer asking them to intercede with the Federal Emergency Management Association to provide funding.

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