CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan was one of the thousands that were trapped in the traffic nightmare as a portion of County Road 39 and Sunrise Highway were shut down, creating sheer agony, bedlam and confusion throughout Southampton.Had this occurred during a hurricane evacuation or severe storm evacuation, thousands of people would have been put in jeopardy.
“I think someone needs to make a plan so we can get out. I feel trapped,” one woman said.
“I have children that are hungry, thirsty; 95 degrees in the car, and we have no gas and nowhere to go,” motorist Ana Amato said.
As the hours passed, Village police referred McLogan to the state police, who told her it was town police that closed the highway to clean oil and clear debris from a two-vehicle collision. Motorists complained the authorities were passing the buck, keeping them uninformed.
“We’re in a lot of trouble,” one person said.
“If there’s an evacuation we should just camp out?” another said.
“This is Montauk Highway, right? And 27′s not moving either,” added another.
The backup surged through the Hamptons for 20 miles along the emergency coastal evacuation route.
“This is a good example of what we are really facing on the east end if there were to be any kind of evacuation necessary. The intersections are getting blocked. I’m afraid cars will be overheating soon. There’s nowhere to go,” motorist Maria Wilson said.
Finally at 9:49 p.m., nearly seven hours after the roads were closed, traffic began to ease. McLogan showed her exclusive video to some East End town and county leaders, who called the dangerous conditions unacceptable.
Long Island's geography and geographical location means that those living on the East End are vulnerable to hurricanes and severe storms (Nor'easters) and evacuation routes need to be optimized to deal with getting people out in a timely manner. While the roads may appear to be sufficient to handle the traffic under normal conditions, traffic accidents can reduce or eliminate the margin of safety.
It also means that potential traffic accidents have to be addressed promptly to avoid major traffic jams that could delay evacuations. Law enforcement failed to handle the situation in as efficient a manner as possible, and this needs to be addressed as we head into the height of hurricane season.