Irene, the hurricane that became a tropical storm as it reached Long Island, did more than knock out power for days and topple rot-weakened trees. For many in the hospitality and retail trades here, its impact was a tough hit in an already tough year. Ask most any shopkeeper on the South Fork how their summer 2011 went and more times than not they will say it was okay until the storm warnings came. Then, as one in Montauk told us this week, things just dropped off a cliff. Customers left as the forecast worsened, he said, and just didn’t come back.
Much has been made of the additional costs the Long Island Power Authority will have to absorb or pass on to its customers for restoring power after long outages. LIPA has set the figure at $176 million. County and state lawmakers are looking into whether the utility was adequately prepared for what turned out to be a modest blow. Expect a fair amount of grandstanding at a hearing today in Mineola in which a New York Senate committee will consider what LIPA did and what it could do differently next time.
Likely to be unasked and unanswered tomorrow is what can be done to help those businesses that had been depending on strong Labor Day receipts to help turn a profit. As residents finish their back-to-school purchases and as holiday shopping looms, they might think about keeping their dollars and cents on the South Fork whenever possible.