The first week in August is the traditional kickoff date to the hurricane season in the Hamptons. The authorities are out, driving around, making announcements over loudspeaker systems. Stock up with canned goods. Keep gas in your car. Store gallon jugs of water in your basement. Check on telephone lines. Tape your windows. Blah, blah, blah. We all know the drill. It’s the same thing every year.
Trouble is, there hasn’t been a really bad hurricane here in nearly a decade. And this spring, scientists discovered the reason why. Because the temperatures are rising and the polar ice caps are melting, a major reorganization in the sorts of disasters hitting the country is taking place. California now suffers from devastating drought. The Midwest is reeling from enormous tornadoes. Landslides are raising havoc in Oregon and forest fires are raging in Washington.
Here in the Hamptons, the threat is now earthquakes. Big ones. The key indicator of this is the sudden change in the way that birds circle above this community. Until now, it’s been clockwise. Beginning in June of this year, however, it’s counter-clockwise. It has something to do with a change in magnetic fields, a change that heralds the arrival of earthquakes. Furthermore, these indicators peak between August 1 and October 31—the same time as the old hurricane season—because that is when the earth here is at its warmest, or as one expert recently said, most liable to crack open like a raw egg.
The fault line on the South Fork is right under the center of the Montauk Highway running west to east from Shinnecock to Montauk. People have been driving one way or the other bumper-to-bumper for years there, packing the earth beneath the asphalt harder and harder and, so, as a result, cracks down under there have begun to appear.
As a result, sometime very soon, the earth will suddenly split open and, minutes later, send either North of the Highway or South of the Highway slipping down into the water with a great rumbling and bubbling crash heard for miles. If it’s on the north, 10 minutes later, a giant tsunami with a 50’ wave will cross Peconic Bay and obliterate Greenport and New Suffolk on the North Fork. If it’s on the south, the tsunami will cross the ocean and, nine days later slam into Portugal, ripping it right out of Europe. In either case, back here, all that will remain is a South Fork just half the size of what it had been before, which just so happens will cause it to become of equal size to the formerly smaller North Fork. Is that a fluke, or what?
What can you do? Not much. With a hurricane, you get a three-day warning. With an earthquake, it will be all over before you realize it’s here. In a way, you might consider this a saving grace. With hurricanes you have to worry about them as they make their way up the coast. But with earthquakes you don’t have that problem. It hits. That’s it.
Still, there are ways to protect yourself in advance. Most are the exact opposite of what protects you from a hurricane. So reverse everything.
For example, get rid of those canned goods you stocked up with to be ready for the hurricane. Canned goods can fly off shelves and give lethal blows to the face and head. Only purchase food and drink that are in cardboard boxes or in bags. Get Tate’s Chocolate Chip Cookies in their soft cellophane bags, for example. They crumble when hit. They cause no damage. And stay away from hard fruits and vegetables. No watermelons, no avocados. Say yes to bananas and strawberries. And maybe to cabbages. Cabbages are on the fence. As far as drinks go, only get drinks in cardboard cartons, like orange or grapefruit juice. Forget anything in glass bottles. No Perrier, no Pellegrino, no Bud Lite. And do NOT fill your car’s gas tank to full. If full, pour it out. Keep the needle near empty. This “Big One” will carry off cars that, when they land, will explode. Make that gasoline explosion a small one. And tie down refrigerators and stoves as best you can. And if you have an outdoor electric generator—many people have gotten them fearing hurricanes—turn it off, disconnect it from the power and tie it down with chains. You don’t want a 1,000-pound generator firing sparks and waddling through the French doors and into your living room.
Another thing to consider is doorways. Standing in a doorway can save your life by protecting you from what might shower down on you. In some cases, people have survived the entire collapse of their house by huddling in a doorway. All that remains is the doorway.
And perhaps the best advice is to spend as much time as possible on or near the centerline of the Montauk Highway. If you do that, as soon as you see which side is falling away, you make the great leap to safety.
Finally, consider having an extra set of clothes with you. If you’re a woman and the South of the Highway falls away, you want to be dressed as a local, in overalls, boots and flannel shirt and cap. If the North of the Highway is gone, be in your Blahniks, mini-skirt, Ralph Lauren sweater and floppy white hat.
It’s fair to say at this point that both sides are hoping to be the one to survive. If it’s the North of the Highway that falls away, the real estate values of the South of the Highway will soar even farther into the stratosphere than they are now. Demand will far outstrip supply. And those who speculate will make spectacular windfalls of cash.
If it’s the South of the Highway that slips away, then you might think economic disaster would overwhelm those local folk that remain on the North. The wealthy summer home economy will have gone away in a flash. And what remains for the survivors to do—clamming and fishing and farming—will not be an adequate replacement income for what came before.
But these folks are resilient, and they’ll get along, poor but happy, and with their family’s wholehearted support. Many will enjoy being their own boss for the first time.
This situation may not last long, though. If it’s the South of the Highway that falls away, those wealthy folks with houses in the South have already gotten together to raise $100 billion to haul the South back up and re-attach it to the North. It will then be like it is now. And it will be a great relief to the locals in the North. It’s also true that many Northerners and Southerners are friends. Whew!
The scientists cannot tell us how soon this inevitable catastrophe will take place. Meanwhile, watch the skies. Stay close to the Montauk Highway, keep bananas, strawberries and maybe cabbages together with a spare set of clothes in a suitcase out there, and if you see any changes in how the birds circle overhead, be sure to report it to the authorities immediately.