Tales From the 2018 Bombogenesis

Outdoor showers, nightcub basement, vintage cars among the casualties
After frozen pipes thawed yesterday, water came gushing out of Sloppy Tuna in downtown Montauk. The basement had filled with water from burst water pipes. T.E. McMorrow

A bitter-cold blast last week, combined with a snowstorm, created havoc in East Hampton. The arctic weather resulted in burst water pipes, slips and spills, and cars stranded in snowdrifts across the East End. 

On Friday, a New York man who owns a residence in the Hither Hills section of Montauk drove his 1998 Range Rover into the snow at the South Edison beach access near the Sloppy Tuna. His rear tires sank, spinning into the frozen sand. Unable to get the vehicle out, he eventually gave up and left it, returning the next day with shovels and a female companion. While he declined to give his name, he said that his companion had asked the day before, “Can’t we get closer to the water?” which, unfortunately, he did. 

Eventually, a MER Service truck, based at the Marshall and Sons service station in downtown Montauk, was called in to pull the Range Rover off the beach. According to Peter Rucano, a mechanic, the transmission on the Range Rover was in bad shape. “It is not shifting,” he said on Monday. “The tranny is done. The drive shaft has blown up.”

At a time of year when there is usually space in the service station’s parking lot, it has been filled to capacity in recent days with cars rescued from various icy predicaments. “We’ve been getting 30 to 40 calls a day. We rescued more than 25 cars,” Mr. Rucano said.

Yesterday, it was the Sloppy Tuna restaurant that experienced a meltdown. During the intense cold weather of last week, the pipes apparently had frozen and burst. According to the police, as the temperature rose this week, the ice melted and water filled the basement, flowing out in streams through the doors and pouring over the foundation line like a miniature waterfall. The Suffolk County Water Authority was called in to shut down the water main yesterday morning, but the damage to the popular nightspot was done.

Steven Cummings, the assistant service manager at Hardy Plumbing and Heating of Southampton, described a common sight reported by plumbers responding to emergency calls in the dawning days of 2018: “Water coming out of the basement window. We’ve gotten a few of those.” The telephone has been ringing, he said, nonstop. “We have had guys working around the clock. Saturday, we had a full crew in here, and they were all out until 7 o’clock at night.”

Mechanics have also been busy. 

“We saw the biggest increase in dead batteries,” said Jim Shelly, the owner of Georgica Services, an East Hampton auto-repair shop. “Cars do pretty predictable things in extreme cold. Batteries are going to go dead. Check-engine lights are going to come on.”

The interiors of vintage convertibles with roofs that are less than airtight sometimes fill up with ice in cold, snowy conditions, Mr. Shelly cautioned, leading to big problems when things thaw out.

Cars that arrive from the south tend not to be winterized, Mr. Shelly added. One surprising automotive victim that took shelter in Mr. Shelly’s shop was a Fiat Jolly from about 1961 or 1962. It had just been flown in from England, only to have its radiator cracked. The mechanics found it filled with water. 

Marshall Prado, the owner of Montauk’s Marshall and Sons, runs both the auto-repair station and an oil-supply and service company. He has been in both businesses for about 55 years. The recent weather, he said yesterday, reminded him of what almost every winter was like when he was young: “A lot of people bought their houses in the summer, and didn’t realize they needed oil!”

Marshall and Sons as at Hardy Plumbing and Heating was fully staffed over the weekend, answering call after call, rather than running on the regular off-season skeleton crew. 

“When you hit 4 degrees, a lot of houses are not properly insulated,” said Gregg Martin, the assistant service manager at Marshall’s Fuels. Owners need to check unexpected places where heat can escape the house, such as dryer vents or pet doors. 

A major problem, according to Mr. Prado, is that nowadays second-homeowners are less likely to hire a caretaker to check on their homes while they are away, opting instead for various high-tech alternatives, or simply asking a friend to drive by. 

“Nothing replaces someone coming into the house,” Mr. Prado said. “People tend to rely on their neighbors or friends to watch their houses. Big mistake. If a friend or neighbor you are relying on goes on a trip, your house is suddenly unattended.” 

“Outdoor showers are bursting,” Mr. Prado said. Many people turn the water to the showers on to wash off their cars or surfboards, and forget to properly empty the pipes come November. 

Cab companies were working around the clock. According to Leo Almonte, the owner of Surf Taxi, his crew was ferrying not just people but provisions back and forth between stores and snowed-in residents.

Mr. Shelly found an antidote to the freezing weather. On Monday, he flew to Florida. “It is 70 degrees,” he said gleefully yesterday on the phone.