Westhampton Beach Village officials agreed last week that barricades didn't prevent people from venturing to Dune Road during and following Hurricane Sandy — and larger barriers may be needed in the future to keep curious homeowners, housesitters and onlookers away in the event of an emergency.
"People were blowing through the barricades with police sitting right there," said Trustee Hank Tucker.
Police Chief Ray Dean confirmed and said there were a number of residents who completely disregarded the road closure order, either because they wanted to sightsee or because they wanted to get to their homes.
"I sat there with police lights and people just disregarded," he said, adding, "The roadway was simply not safe [during and after the storm]. It was flooded, there were lines and poles down. When you have a storm, you would expect that a reasonable person would not go down there."
The solution, said Chief Dean is cement barricades; however, he said, heavy machinery is needed to install them.
"Cement blocks do work the best," said Mayor Teller. "They should be lit up or painted so they glow in the dark and we will be in good shape."
That, however, said Tucker, isn't the end all solution, pointing out that if one of the other two municipalities that have bridges to Dune Road open their access, it will be difficult for Westhampton Beach police to keep people off their portion.
Mayor Teller agreed: "If one of the other sides opens, all is lost. Once people get down there, there is no way to get them out other than arrest them."
However, Chief Dean said that the village has been in contact with the Village of Quogue and the Town of Southampton about that very issue and there has been a plan in place for a coordinated opening of all bridges to Dune Road after a storm.
After Hurricane Sandy that was the case, he said, with Westhampton Beach and Quogue uniting to open access. The town's portion; however, remained closed since the roadway was impassable in its jurisdiction. Westhampton Beach Police and Quogue police both helped to secure that area until Southampton Police were made available to help, said Dean.
With a great majority of the people trying to access Dune Road after Sandy being residents and housesitters, who arrived in droves a day after Sandy at the bridge only to be turned away because the roadway was still under a state of emergency, Tucker suggested a notification system be set up.
Tucker recommended that the village start a Twitter feed, Facebook Page and/or possibly use the school district's automated calling system to notify Dune Road residents of important information after a storm, such as the re-opening of Dune Road or about power restoration to homes that were flooded.
As of last Wednesday, for example there were 120 homes in the Village of Westhampton Beach where power could not be restored because a certificate was needed by an inspector — those homeowners had to all be notified my mail.
Village Clerk Rebecca Molinaro said the system could work similar to the village's alarm system registry. She also said the village's revamped website will be beneficial in the event of another storm since employees will be able to update it easier. She further suggested that the village could set up a CodeRed System such as the Town of Southampton has done.
The only issue Chief Dean said could be a lack of power — with no Internet available, the village would not be able to update its website or send out tweets and Facebook messages.
Patch wants to know: How do you think village officials handled informing the public during and after Hurricane Sandy? How do you think they can improve communications? Let us know in the comment section below.
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.