A resilient hamlet hit by four storms: Finding long-term solutions for a coastal community

Picture of downtown beach in Montauk during the storms in December 2023.
Picture of downtown beach in Montauk during the storms in December 2023.

(Stephen Carman)

Related Topics:
Conservation, Natural Disasters, Oceans, Storyfest 2024

Picture this: You’re a Montauk local on Dec. 18 2023 and as you and your loved ones watch the news, a winter storm is expected. When hearing the term, “winter storm,” one immediately thinks of a blizzard. Unfortunately, this close-knit hamlet and other Long Island towns experienced a storm resembling a hurricane.

It shrank many of the cherished beaches and caused major flooding, damage to coastal homes, and even a flood of trash on the shorelines. That’s not all. Three more storms rolled in like turbulent waves within the next month. This destruction (to my hometown) brought perilous risks for the future of the local’s livelihoods. It’s a devastation that came to the attention of people of all ages. Local Instagram stories revealed Ditch Plains Beach, Webster Beach, and Main Beach swept away by chaotic waves, leaving bare sandbags and trash for miles. 

Some of the best waves come from storms like these, attracting surfers within the Montauk community and outside of it, but there is a downside to this that the locals and the rest of Eastern Long Island continue to struggle with. Even though Montauk is a small community, there is no doubt of its resilience when it is faced with hardships like this. We look back at Hurricane Sandy, a storm that ravaged the dunes, destroyed homes, and even took lives. Despite those hardships and the loss of loved ones, these events have also prepared us for future ones by realizing how fragile our coastal environments truly are.  

As someone who grew up with the ocean — watching the waves crash against the coarse sand, doing the polar plunge, fishing with my family, and learning to surf — I want to protect my home. If none of us did, we wouldn’t have the lives we have now. From the moment my little self met the ocean, it immediately became a part of my life. It’s like one of your first friends that you can always go to, but the ocean will never leave. Like a friendship, you need to protect it by safeguarding it and respecting how important it truly is. If you don’t, it weakens over time.

My family and I surf here, my dad takes my siblings, friends, and me out to fish. My two best friends and I paddleboard every summer, and those I graduated with from Montauk Public School and East Hampton High School have a unique and special connection to Montauk. Everything in this town is interconnected because of the locals and those who visit.

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