Frankenstorm: A Play in Three Acts Involving Hurricanes Blasting the Hamptons

Wednesday, September 21, 1938, 2 p.m., Dune Road, Westhampton Beach

So whaddaya say? Seven card stud?
Sounds good. Isn’t it lovely here on the porch. I’ll have another Scotch.
And Violet, another Long Island Iced Tea.
Yes, ma’am.
Don’t you think you’ve had enough to drink, Charles?
Wanna play some tennis later at the club?
Certainly. But you changed the subject. You always change the subject. (Points at the ocean.) Look at that storm cloud way out there on the horizon. Isn’t it cute?
Is the Packard in the driveway?
Jeeves has it. We were running low on gin, he said. He went into town.
I wanted the mail. Well, I’ll tell him to go back out and fetch it when he gets back.
We have to begin getting ready for Muffie’s coming out party tonight.
I’ll deal.

At 2:30 p.m., without any warning, because nobody tracked hurricanes by computer back then, the Hurricane of 1938, the single worst hurricane of the 20th century, plowed into Westhampton Beach, crashing through 27 homes, killing 70 people, flooding downtown and sending the official papers of Village Hall high into the air to be found in trees in the woods of New Hampshire four days later.

Monday, August 9, 1976 at an oceanfront house on Surfside Drive, Montauk.

Well, I think we’re ready. Filled the bathtub. Got the batteries in the flashlights. Got the transistor radio, the candles. All the canned food. We’re snug as a bug in a rug.
Want to play some cards?
Nah.
Well then maybe we ought to watch some TV before all the lights go out. “All in the Family” is just coming on. And after that, “Maude.”
Okay.
I think I see it coming way out there. An angry group of clouds.
That’s a hurricane?
Yeah.
It’s beautiful in the reflection of the sunset over the water.
Sure is.
Something in me still wishes we had gone with the rest of the gang back to Syosset, though. Are you sure this is it?
It’s supposed to be sometime tonight.
But the weather bureau never gets it right.
Look. I landed at Normandy. Landed again in Korea at Inchon. Trust me, we’ll get through this.
You always say that.
Have I ever let you down?

Hurricane Belle hit Long Island just after midnight on August 10, 1976. The hurricane packed 120-mile-an-hour winds, but it had weakened to 80 miles an hour when it hit. Lots of trees came down. Tens of thousands of people on Long Island were without power and many were also without water for six days, and even then the power company was only able to get everything restored by having trucks come in from other parts of the Northeast.

Friday, October 26, 2012, 2 p.m. Main Beach, East Hampton. A man and a woman get out of a car.

Looks pretty flat to me.
It was that way in the Perfect Storm. Remember? Those three hurricanes coming together 50 miles off Gloucester, Massachusetts?
Yeah.
The three storms are going to come together right over the Shinnecock Canal on Monday at 11 a.m. It’s in the crosshairs. More devastation than anything you can imagine. Just like the movie. But now it’s real.
(She takes out her iPhone.) I want to take a picture of this, how flat it is. Before everything happens.
Good idea.
I still think we should consider driving off. We could visit my relatives in Pennsylvania.
It’s going to snow in Pennsylvania.
Snow?
And as I told you, I think it’s best we be here to watch the house. Also, New York is going to be a catastrophe. Tidal waves. Falling buildings. Shattered glass. We’d never get through.
We could just go to that park in western Long Island and stay in a tent. Remember when we did that?
In a tent? That’s just a ridiculous idea. We’re best off here. Got to get ready. Lots to do. Have the windows boarded up. Gas up. Everybody’s getting ready. Governor Cuomo declared a state of emergency this morning. Mayor Bloomberg says he’s closing the subways. And our boat is coming out of the water this afternoon.
Really?
It could fly out of the water, come over the road and through our living room sliders. Weren’t you watching the Weather Channel?
I watched it for 10 minutes. They were showing Katrina. Tokyo. Hiroshima. I couldn’t stand it.
Remember that yacht on the roof of a store in, uh, what was the name of that town?
Kirishima?
And look. Here’s the high tides. (He punches some buttons on his cellphone then swipes the screen several times.) And the moon. It’s full. You know what that means.
It says Sunday.
I’ll give it two more swipes. It advances 12 hours for each. There. Even worse on Monday.
My God.
Currently, it is off the coast of Jupiter, Florida at Longitude 80° 5’ and Latitude 26° 56’ feet. Look. (Shows her a map of the east coast on his iPhone.)
(She turns away.) I don’t want to look.

This account is written on Sunday, October 28. Because of the approaching hurricane, Dan’s Papers has a Sunday deadline so we can get the paper printed before Hurricane Sandy makes landfall. Since Friday, the crosshairs for the landfall shifted first to New York City and are, at this time, centered on Southern New Jersey. Since we’re still a day away from landfall, we don’t know what actually happened. But you do.

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