Montauk Takes a Beating

Sandy swept dunes away; oceanfront hotels undermined, Soundview pummeled
Motel row in downtown Montauk sustained even more damange than during Hurricane Irene last year. Russell Drumm

     Montauk became a virtual island for several hours on Monday night going into Tuesday when the sea joined marsh water to overtop Montauk Highway at the east end of Napeague. It was the first time the Napeague isthmus has been flooded to that extent since Hurricane Carol in 1954.

     Hours before Hurricane Sandy came ashore in New Jersey the storm's surge, compounded by a full-moon tide, had raised the sea level considerably. Water in Montauk Harbor was lapping at marina docks even before a northeast wind began to blow in earnest.

     When it did, Block Island Sound once again rose up against the vulnerable Soundview and Culloden communities. A house owned by Janet Cole was left dangling over a badly eroded beach on Tuesday morning. Waves continued to pound bulkheads there throughout the day.

     To the east on Soundview Drive, the dunes separating the sound from Gosman's restaurant and seafood market were leveled, leaving the road damaged. By Monday evening, ocean water was surging through the Montauk Harbor inlet, ripping the planking off docks at Gosman's Clam Bar and at Salivar's and Duryea's Dock, and overtopping the fuel dock at the Montauk Marine Basin.

     Carl Darenberg, owner of the Montauk Marine Basin, reported losing about 30 planks from his docks, "and we had a foot of water in the store, but I think we did pretty well. When the wind came out of the south it saved us," Mr. Darenberg said.

     Chris and Tanya Miller at the West Lake Marina reported a foot and a half of water in the restaurant. Mr. Miller said water rose at least two feet above dock level. No boats were damaged seriously at West Lake.

     The parking area on the north side of Gosman's restaurant became a beach once the low dunes were swept away. Emmet Gosman reported the loss of decking at the compound's clam bar, but said the restaurant was not damaged.

     Commercial fishing boats tied to the town dock next to Gosman's made it through the night even while water passed under them over the dock, past the Dock restaurant nearly reaching the West Lake Drive extension, an elevation of at least five feet. Two of the Viking Fleet's party boats weathered the storm in Fort Pond.

     Star Island reverted to its original island status when the causeway connecting it to West Lake Drive was breached.

     As bad as damage was on Montauk's north side, it was probably saved from total devastation when the wind switched from northeast to southeast earlier than predicted. What was good for the north side was bad for the Montauk's already-pummeled ocean beaches, however.

      Ditch Plain beach lost its dunes. The ocean poured through sand berms that the town had hurriedly placed Monday morning at the East Deck Motel and town beach accesses and flowed through the streets toward Lake Montauk. The motel itself survived but narrowly.

     Motel row in downtown Montauk sustained even more damage than during Hurricane Irene last year. The foundations of motels from the Royal Atlantic west to the Ocean Surf, and the Ocean End were exposed, the buildings themselves undercut. At Gurney's Inn, the Beach Club restaurant and Beach Barge, directly on the beach, were destroyed along with a boardwalk. Trucks filled with sand to buttress the exposed motels were rolling into Montauk early Tuesday morning.

     Working through the day and well into the night both Saturday and Sunday, Montauk's marinas succeeded in hauling most of the recreational boating fleet out of harm's way.