On October 29th, almost a year to the day of the 2011 Halloween snowstorm, Hurricane Sandy, while crawling up the coast took a left turn at Atlantic City. Most hurricanes coming up the coast turn to the right and skirt by Montauk and Cape Cod. This storm’s uncharacteristic turn into New Jersey, built up a storm surge unlike any other for the New York harbor. Coastal neighborhoods on Staten Island, lower Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and Nassau County were damaged, in some cases, beyond recognition.
There is one statistic that caught my interest that surfaced along the coast after the storm passed. Communities that had natural or man made dunes that were densely vegetated, received much less water damage than communities where dunes were either removed or never existed. Vegetated sand dunes, correctly positioned between coastal communities and the ocean, have the ability to absorb and deflect storm water surge. Heavily vegetated dunes are less likely to shift or move during periods of rough surf.
Fire Island is a barrier island paralleling the south shore of Long Island. The Fire Island National Seashore area of Sailor’s Haven/Sunken Forest is a perfect example of how a barrier island’s densely vegetated sand dunes and its unique ecosystem protect coastal communities along the south shore of Long Island during nor’easters and hurricanes.
In our area, high wind gusts knocked down trees and power lines. Power was out for seven to ten days. Just as the power came on, an early season snowstorm dropped six inches of snow less than a week after the hurricane. What next?
This year’s Thanksgiving feast, with all the turkey and leftover sandwiches, is history and now it’s time to think about the Christmas Eve fish and Christmas Day ham. The aroma of freshly baked cookies, pies, and cakes are a treat for the nose as well as the stomach. The scent of paperwhites (narcisis) and fresh cut balsam fir brings the outside in this holiday season.
Before the ground freezes and the snow piles up, make sure the garden beds
have a two to three inch layer of mulch to insulate the soil from frequent freezing and thawing which appears to be more the norm. Now is the time to shape the trees and shrubs so they are ready for next spring’s growth spurt and can handle heavy snow and ice this winter.
December is a clean, cold, star-filled night. Look hard and you will find the Great Bear low in the horizon at evening. Legend has it that the Great Bear is looking down from the sky to wash his paws in the deep lakes before the ice sets. Little Bear is also up there hanging by his tail from the North Star. To the west, Cygnos the Migrating Swan is in flight. To the east, the two dogs watch Orion the Hunter observing Taurus. Overhead is Pleiades Sisters. You remember the Pleiades Sisters; the shy sisters on the corner.
I recall, a few years back, taking a late evening walk on the 24th. It was a very clear, cold night and as I was trying to picture the constellations, I noticed a faint red glow coming out of the northeast. At first, I thought it was the northern lights. As the light got closer, I heard sleigh bells. Could it be? I believe it was. Have a very Merry Christmas and a joyous New Year.