Additional Reporting by Mike Lewis
Destruction is an understatement when it comes to the havoc Hurricane Irene unloaded on many areas of the East Coast. The death toll stands at a chilling 40 across 11 states. 3.3 million people are without power, and the estimated damage costs exceed $10 billion. As more information surfaces on the devastation, we learn the toll the storm has taken on the action sports industry. Below is an updated overlook of Hurricane Irene’s mean streak, including the Quiksilver Pro’s Festival cancellation, surfer deaths caused by the storm, and Rome Snowboard’s Vermont office wreckage. An updated photo gallery provides a first-hand look at the damage.
Here’s an updated look at the damage around Vermont’s ski resorts, New Jersey surf, and the swell in South Carolina, (courtesy of Justin Morris).
The Quiksilver Pro, New York
As of Monday night, the city of Long Beach, NY announced clean-up crews will not be able to restore the beach in time for the event to begin this Friday, September 2nd. Thus, the festival associated with the Quiksilver Pro New York–including the skate/BMX/moto/music events, and Tony Hawk's Vert Jam– will be canceled. Continue to check back to www.quiksilverpro.com for more frequent updates.
The people of North Carolina were apparently hit harder than their neighbors to the south. “Highway 12, the only road connecting the [outer] banks to the mainland was sliced in four separate locations, isolating thousands of people and their homes,” according to Zander Morton of TransWorld Surf.
Surfline reports Irene took at least one surfer death in North Carolina, and TransWorld Surf reports one death in Florida due to the storm’s mean wrath. Frederick “Fico” Fernandez of New Smyrna Beach, Florida lost his life riding the ten foot waves produced by Irene’s swell. According to TransWorld Surf, “Fernandez got into a steep left, wiped out and was driven into the bottom, breaking his neck. He was an amazing surfer and waterman, a great musician and a math teacher at NSB high school. He will be truly missed by all."
Our condolences go out to both families who lost loved ones due to the surf.
As news of the surprising devastation from land locked Vermont continues to pour in like the flood waters that inundated many communities, we reached out to the Burton camp and found that their offices and staff got through the storm unscathed. Unfortunately it was a different situation at Rome's Waterbury, Vermont headquarters, where the entire first floor of the building was flooded.
We caught up with Rome Director of Sales Dan Sullivan this morning, who was finally able to get out of his town and return to the offices today, only to be greeted by deep mud that destroyed most of the first floor offices. Sully described the scene outside Rome's windows that included 60 foot trees dangling off a nearby bridge. Fortunately everyone on the Rome team is fine and several members of the crew were on site during the storm wrapping up the upcoming film "The Shred Remains," and were able to rescue the company's hard drives and electronics and move them to higher ground in the building. Unfortunately, like much of the Eastern US, Rome offices are still without power.
"We're rolling with the punches," says Sullivan, who doesn't expect any long term impacts for the company. "Fortunately it happened in the daylight and everybody's Ok. It’s really a grim scene for the entire town and state. It’s mind boggling to see how high the water got."
For the original developments on the story, look to “Page 2.”
Over the past week, the media has made sure all are prepared for the wrath of Mother Nature on the East Coast in the form of Hurricane Irene. Irene—labeled a category 1 hurricane—has swept her way from New York down to Florida, evacuating over 65 million people, and taking a selective stab at everything that crossed her path. Sunday morning, officials downgraded Hurricane Irene to a tropical storm. Some on the east coast complained the damage was understated compared to the hype from the media. Although Hurricane Irene did not turn into the predicted "Armageddon," it did result in some heartbreak. According to USA Today, Irene has claimed 40 casualties, canceled nearly 10,000 flights (and counting), and has racked up an impressive $10 billion in state losses surrounding clean-up costs (this number is quickly increasing).
To top it off, Irene has tampered with some heavy industry events from surf, to skate, to even snow. However, not all of Irene's damage is for the worse.
The fast approaching Quiksilver Pro New York, set to begin this Friday, September 2, 2011, underwent a halt in set-up as heavy wind and rain dominated the area this last weekend. Surprisingly, the folks over at Quiksilver are optimistic;
“We chose the upcoming weeks to stage the event because it was hurricane season, offering the greatest potential for good surf. So planning for hurricanes was par for the course." Quiksilver's Luke Watson continued to point out, “Surfing events have always required daily flexibility, so while Irene posed a larger than normal challenge, it was still well within the realm of what we prepare for when staging professional surfing events." Watson assures that all the events will continue to go as planned, "Our event has an extended 15-day holding period precisely to negotiate the elements of nature, which is the essence of our sport. It is possible that we can complete the event in as few as three days of contestable surf, so we do have flexibility in scheduling. We will not be extending the period beyond its original end-date of September 15 and we definitely have the ability to take a little extra time on the front end to assess conditions and rebuild the site when the city deems it is safe to do so.”
Irene not only affected the surf in New York, but it made some local surfers in South Carolina pretty excited. Dax Kelm of Backbone Media was in Folly Beach, South Carolina to experience the quality surf first hand, "[the waves] ranged from chest to double overhead. Lot’s of carnage because of the heavy paddle out to get in the lineup. It was awesome! Hurricane surf really brings out the best of Folly Beach. Friday night at the Folly pier, people were jumping off the pier to avoid the paddle out. Locals were drinking beers from the Tides hotel outside bar, hooting and hollering as surfers were scoring sick rides!"
Unfortunately, the "waves are down to around knee high now, so this storm swell is over for us," Kelm comments. Hopefully the lack of waves are not the case for the upcoming Quiksilver Pro.
The skateboarding world took a hit from Irene as well. The Street League Skateboarding Championships announced the competition, originally slated for Sunday in Newark, NJ, would be held Saturday, August 27 due to the hurricane. The event went off seamlessly, but it was a good thing contest organizers chose to push up the event, “The inland flooding is the thing that has been almost as much of a concern of mine as the coastal flooding has been,” said NJ Gov. Chris Christie. This flooding would have directly affected the contest if the original Sunday date had been kept.
Local New York skateboard shop, Blades, gave a quote courtesy of Marketing Director, Greg Waters, remarking on the impact the hurricane had on business this past weekend:
"Hurricane Irene was pretty crazy, but it didn't crush Blades or the City of New York. For safety reasons, we shut down both Blades locations on Saturday and Sunday, and re-opened this morning. Thankfully both stores and staff made it through the storm unscathed. It was unfortunate to have to close on one of the final weekends of the summer, but for us – being based in Manhattan – our back-to-school business doesn't typically kick into high gear until early September anyway. So all things considered, we're in good shape."
Some argue the state of Vermont took the hardest impact from Hurricane Irene. "We prepared for the worst, and we got the worst in central and southern Vermont," said VT Gov., Peter Shumlin.
Mountain resorts Sugarloaf, Mt. Snow, Okemo, and Killington took the hit pretty hard. "We got about 7 inches of rain in four-hours!" says SnoCountry Mountain Restorts Marketing Communications Manager Tom Horrocks. The storm is reported as the worst flooding to touch Vermont in over a century. Chris Danforth, Marketing Manager for Killington Resort, remarked from his residence in Rutland, VT, "I'm unable to access the mountain because all the roads (leading to the resort) are washed-out. We've got a crew on the mountain as we speak assessing the damage. As of right now, our Super Star Pub at the K1 Lodge appears to be the most hit by the storm. Other than that, the mountain itself looks OK."
The K1 Lodge suffered damage from the flooding brook underneath the structure, not wind as previously assumed. “It sounds like all the lift infrastructure weathered the storm. There was some damage to the roads, as well as parking lots, and areas of [structural] foundation. We lost some trees, but other than that, we're looking good," said an optimistic Danforth.
As far as reconstruction is concerned,"There's a fair bit of work that's going to need to take place from now until opening day, but as of an initial assessment, [the storm] won't impact our ability to open on schedule for the winter." That's good news for all VT riders.
Danforth joked, "We're really unable to access Internet, so we've been trying to keep everyone updated on our Facebook page via our phones…"
Thankfully, the eye of the storm has passed Vermont. Horrocks jokes, "It's 70 and sunny right now. It's great weather for biking! You would never guess we just had a hurricane pass through."
Due to the destruction, most on the East Coast still do not have access to landline phones, nor Internet.
Overall, we are happy to report that most have weathered the storm well. We send out our condolences to all those who have suffered losses due to Hurricane Irene.