LIDO BEACH, N.Y. (PIX11) — Waves as tall as a house; rip currents that can kill; tides that dragged away dunes holding up beachside homes; those are some of the conditions the tri-state region saw on Thursday, as Hurricane Lee got closer and closer to our latitude.
The storm was off the coast by hundreds of miles, but its effects are still so strong — and expected to increase — that one part of the region declared a state of emergency, and many other areas are warning people to stay away from the water, as the storm intensifies into Friday night and Saturday.
On West Lido Beach on Friday afternoon, many people came to admire Mother Nature’s power.
“All these waves are crazy,” said Jillian Murray, who’d come out to the beach with her 4-year-old son, John. “They’re beautiful, though,” she said about surf that she and her son observed from as far away from the water’s edge as possible.
They were following official warnings to stay out of, and away from, the water.
One of those officials was Don Clavin, the supervisor of the Town of Hempstead, the largest township of the county, with 14 miles of shoreline.
“There are significant wave heights,” he said in an interview on Lido Beach, which had flooded all the way to its dunes, at low tide. “Seven to ten feet is a lot,” he continued, referring to the heights of the waves, which were expected to rise up to four feet further.
“High tide and flooding is real,” Clavin said. “So you know what, you might not see the rain, but you’re seeing a lot of dangerous effects.”
He talked about how the weather outside was pleasant, but the ocean conditions were potentially treacherous.
Despite that, dozens and dozens of surfers hit the waves at West Lido Beach, an East Coast destination when storms are off shore.
“It’s good New York waves,” said one surfer, who only gave his first name, Chris. “It’s what we wait all year for.”
He’d just emerged from the surf at low tide, and the waves were strong and high. As the tide increased into the nighttime hours, the waves were expected to intensify.
It’s part of the reason why a group of women who are friends of Chris were also at the back of the beach, away from the rough surf.
Emma Ferrera was among the group.
“We’re from Southampton,” she said. Their town, 68 miles east, had surf too hazardous for even their surfer friends to risk. There, Hurricane Lee’s waves had already done damage that was only expected to get worse.
“There’s no beach left in Southampton,” Ferrera said.
She was referring to something that Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman spoke about in an interview on Friday morning: strong waves had washed away dunes that supported some seaside homes. Heavy equipment carried out work on the dunes on Friday morning to try and restore them.
“I don’t want to underestimate this storm,” Schneiderman said. “It’s carrying a lot of energy in the waves, and that can do tremendous damage.”
On Friday morning, he declared a state of emergency for his town, which covers 293 square miles, and has 69,000 residents.
As part of emergency declaration, Schneiderman shut down Dune Road, the main east-west artery along the Atlantic Ocean. It regularly floods during storms, and during high tide, when the oceanside is so strongly affected by the effects of the hurricane that the risk is all the greater.
The state of emergency remains in place until 11:59 p.m. on Monday.