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Marine industry braces for hurricane damage

Hurricane Sandy was making its way up the East Coast with sustained winds of 85 miles an hour this morning and is “expected to bring life-threatening storm surge and coastal hurricane winds,” a National Hurricane Center update at 8 a.m. showed.

The storm was expected to turn northwest before slamming into the Northeast tonight, leaving coastal residents from Maryland to Massachusetts scrambling to prepare for winds that were predicted to reach 140 miles an hour.

More threatening than winds were concerns about rising water, which usually kills and does more damage than winds in hurricanes, according to the Associated Press.

The storm prompted the closings of major airports, roads and mass transit systems today all over the Northeast.

Marina owners were frantically pulling boats from the water, if possible, and moving vessels to high ground if they could.

Tim Keane, Stone Harbor Yachts’ sales manager in Stone Harbor, N.J., was measuring the pilings at his marina this morning when Soundings Trade Only called.

“There are only 24 inches left showing; if the water rises two more feet, these docks are going to get eaten up,” Keane told Trade Only.

“This is the most water I’ve seen in this area since I moved down here and probably the most water we’ve had here since 1962, when the ocean met the bay,” Keene added. “At this particular marina the docks came up over the pilings. When some of the tide went out, all of the docks got ripped up. They had boats on land and they floated away.”

“The tidal water is what’s concerning us,” New York Marine Trades Association president Chris Squeri told Trade Only.

Handling and storage were two of the big challenges that accompanied last year’s Tropical Storm Irene, Squeri said.

“Some guys just can’t pull out all the boats that quickly and place them all appropriately. Logistically as a marina operator, it’s not that easy,” Squeri said.

The surprise of a storm in October caught many off guard.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in 20 years, so it caught everyone by surprise a little bit,” Squeri said. “Thankfully all the marina operators had practice from last year.”

Larry Russo of the Boston area’s Russo Marine says crews started hauling boats on Thursday, a task less daunting than usual because half of the boats had already been stored for the winter.

“We’re ready for whatever comes our way,” Russo said.

Keane said that as long as winds are blowing the water out to sea, even if the tide is high, Stone Harbor should make it.

“What we can’t survive is another 24 to 30 inches of surge,” Keane said. “If that happens, it’s not just about the marina, this whole area of South Jersey is in major trouble. Major trouble. You’re going to have billions of dollars of damage in the southern part, maybe more in the northern part.”

— Reagan Haynes