CHATHAM, MA - SEPTEMBER 3: A man packs up and leaves Chatham Beach ahead of Hurricane Earl September 3, 2010 in Chatham, Massachusetts. Earl has been downgraded to a category 1 and is expected to pass off the Massachusetts coast near the outer islands late this evening, bringing high winds and rain. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Not much rain. Not much wind. Not much of a hurricane.
That was a common reaction to Hurricane Earl on Friday night by those who chose to stay outside on the east end of Long Island.
"Where is the hurricane everybody's been talking about?" Lenard LoBiondo asked as he stood with a drink and some relatives under a soft drizzle outside the Liar's Saloon, a longtime locals hangout by a marina in Montauk.
Sure, they had heard about the closed beaches and the interrupted ferry and train service. But in the end, Earl stayed largely clear of the Hamptons and let the Labor Day weekend parties begin.
"We got a pass," said Jim McLauchlin, a real estate broker and certified general appraiser in Southampton who was talking of Hurricane Earl even before it delivered its punch to the eastern tip of Long Island, where 10-foot-tall hedges surround mansions worth tens of millions of dollars.
By late Friday night, Earl had weakened to a tropical storm with winds of 70 mph as it headed toward New England.
Despite rain, wind and heavy surf, emergency officials said there were no evacuations and the area seemed to escape generally unscathed.
"We're semi-relieved but we're not declaring victory yet. We'll take a look in the morning once the storm passes," said John Searing, a deputy commissioner with the Suffolk County Fire Rescue and Emergency Services.
The Long Island Rail Road expected to resume train service to the east end of Long Island on Saturday morning, running two additional trains to Montauk. Train service was stopped as precaution.
By Friday night at Jones Beach, volleyball and shuffleboard courts were flooded, as was the park's smaller band shell, where scheduled events had been canceled through the weekend, said George Gorman, spokesman for the state Parks Department.
In Montauk-area parks, the water had covered the beach and reached as far as the dunes. It was not yet clear how much erosion would be caused, he said.
The long train of cars that snakes its way slowly through 40 miles of the Hamptons over one main artery on every weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day was on schedule, despite the rain.
For the youngest visitors to the always-popular New York City getaway, the tall ocean waves were as eye-opening as fireworks.
"They're humongous!" gushed 8-year-old Jessica Smith in Montauk, the easternmost point of a 120-mile island, the largest off the continental United States.
Earl did upset holiday travel plans for some.
Port Authority spokesman Ron Marsico urged travelers to call airlines to make sure their flights were running on schedule.
Suffolk County stopped ferry service between Fire Island and the mainland. Several county-run campgrounds were to be closed, along with beaches on the Atlantic Ocean, said Dan Aug, a spokesman for the county executive.
In Sag Harbor, one-third of the boats were taken out of the water.
New York City officials said they expected to see only side effects of the storm — mostly rain, and winds of up to 20 mph, with possible soil erosion on the beaches and flooding along the oceanside coasts of Brooklyn and Queens.
The warnings about Earl touched off plenty of storm preparations but seemed to do little to slow the enthusiasm of people looking for the last of summer fun.
As rain fell intermittently in the late morning and early afternoon Friday, dozens of people rode bikes and walked with their small children on streets with pleasant names like "Toysome Lane" and "Old Town Road."
Where those streets intersected just past "Gin Road," a sign noted that Southampton was the oldest English colony in the state of New York. It was founded in 1640.
At a nearby entrance to the ocean, a red sign warned: "Swimming prohibited until further notice."
Matt Riebenfeld, 41, of Hampton Bay, was pulling fishing gear from his car just as the pace of the rain picked up. Like a surfer thrilled by the challenge, he looked forward to the havoc posed by rough seas.
"I believe in fishing right until you can't fish no more," he said.
On the other side of town, the annual Indian Shinnecock Powwow was getting ready to start on the Shinnecock Indian land right around the time Earl was scheduled to debut its heaviest rains.
A foreshadowing of the deluge was falling upon the head of powwow co-chairman Lance Gumbs when he chuckled mightily at the suggestion that the event could be canceled.
"This is Indian country," Gumbs said as drums and Indian chants rose from a group practicing just beyond a fence along the grounds. His lips then curled up to make a smile before he spoke again.
"We don't cancel because of a storm!"