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Devastation On Long Island: Power Down, Widespread Damage, 2 Dead

Floral Park Trees

Two trees came down within minutes onto neighboring houses in Floral Park, Long Island, during Superstorm Sandy. (Credit: CBS 2)

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Superstorm Sandy

FREEPORT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) - Long Island was a disaster area Tuesday night, after Superstorm Sandy uprooted trees and blew them over like matchsticks, and at one point cut power to 90 percent of LIPA customers without power.

At least two people also died on Long Island as a result of the storm.

Suffolk County Police said 39-year-old John Miller was killed when he was struck by a falling tree as he and his wife were in their driveway in Lloyd Harbor preparing to leave their home at about 7:30 p.m. Monday. His wife, nor his young children who were in a car, were not injured.

In Nassau County, police said 84-year-old Safar Shafinoori, of Roslyn, was struck and killed Monday night by a falling tree while he was moving his car.

Police say a man accidentally blew off his hand when he lighted fireworks during a power outage, thinking it was a candle. The accident occurred Monday evening in Garden City Park.

1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reports from Port Washington

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Long Island took the brunt of the burden, with power being knocked out to nearly 930,000 customers, roughly 90 percent of the area’s utility customers.

The Long Island Power Authority said it could take seven to 10 days to restore service. Crews have begun assessing the damage.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, while trees were down across Long Island, the situation was particularly severe in Floral Park, where two old-growth trees came down side-by-side, each going into neighboring houses. The people who witnessed the horror said one tree practically followed the other.

“It was pretty scary,” said Jerry Monaghan.

He and his wife, Lorraine, thought they were seeing double as they watched the trees fall within minutes.

“All the people that live in that house were out standing on the sidewalk, and everybody was like, ‘It’s going to go,’” said Lorraine Monaghan. “And then it just went.”

Downed trees were a sight seen all over Nassau County, tearing up sidewalks and having families running for cover.

In some cases, the ground gave a hint.

“The sidewalk was literally like a wave moving, and it just went,” one girl said. “It was terrifying.”

With the trees, so goes the power, as lines are left dangling in the dark.

“The tree fell down, and all the wires came down, the fuse box — or whatever they call it – exploded, and we lost power,” one woman said.

When the power went down, the candles came out. So did the creativity.

“Our neighbors gave us a wire from their house to hook up our fridge to keep the food good at least, and we reversed the water from their house to our house so that we can at least flush the toilet now,” a man said.

But some in his home felt like they were living in the dark ages.

“No cable, no TV, nothing at all,” he said.

Meanwhile, the National Guard, FEMA, state and local police are assisting in recovery efforts in Long Beach where there is no water, sewer service or electricity, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported.

At least 10 homes were destroyed by fires, D’Auria reported.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano said 15,000 to 20,000 people in Long Beach did not obey mandatory evacuation orders.

He urged the residents to leave the city on the southern coast of Long Island and stay with friends or in one of several Red Cross shelters open in the area.

The main drag, Broadway, goes along the Atlantic Ocean in Long Beach, and it was reduced to nothing but sand, CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported. Most of the town was likewise covered in sand.

“All of our units that we tried to board up and tried to protect ourselves, it breached, and water came through so fast, no one even had time get downstairs and get anything out,” said one neighbor, Laura.
“Our neighbor next door, I said, ‘If you have any mementoes, go downstairs and get them.’ In minutes, he fell, he slipped, got his pictures first, and got out of the house. It was bad. It was scary.”

On Tuesday night, Long Beach had no electricity, no water, and no sewers. And the town’s city hall looked like an army encampment, with National Guard troops, state troopers and local police officers, alongside buses lined up to allow people to escape.

Police said the damage throughout Long Island has not yet been assessed, but parts of it were still underwater Tuesday night.

Many areas south of the Montauk Highway were closed because of flooding, near the Great South Bay.

At the famed Nautical Mile in Freeport, a fire destroyed the Tropics nightclub and Fiore Bros. Fish Market, leaving only burned out shells of the two very popular businesses. WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs is told that severe flooding prevented firefighters from getting to the blaze.

Two boats which broke loose from their moorings in Freeport are now resting on the roadway. Road signs have been bent in half and other debris, including  picnic tables, restaurant signs, decorative planters and Palm Trees, also litter the streets.

On Washington Avenue in Mineola, dozens of magnificent 100-year-old maple and elm trees have been ripped from the ground.

“There is a lot of physical destruction along the coastline and then even inland we’ve had literally hundreds upon hundreds of trees down,” Town of Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray said.

And authorities said 12 houses on Fire Island were swept to sea by the storm.

Chris Soller, superintendent of the Fire Island National Seashore, said 80 percent of the remaining houses sustained some kind of damage.

The Suffolk County Fire and Rescue team and the Air National Guard were flying helicopters over the island on Tuesday to assess the damage.

Authorities estimated that about 120 people may have remained on the island to ride out the storm. The helicopter teams also will determine the best method for eventually removing the people from the island.

Soller said the devastation on Fire Island was probably the worst since the 1938 hurricane known as the Long Island Express pounded the Northeast.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reports from Shelter Island

Many businesses across Long Island have been struggling to get on their feet after Sandy.

A gas station and a department store on the flooded Bridge Street on Shelter Island suffered extensive damage from the saltwater.

However, some businesses boomed Tuesday long lines of customers brave enough to drive on the messy roads. In Syosset, Dunkin Donuts and Bagel Boss were feeding hungry patrons, Hall reported.

A deli equipped with a generator had a line down the block in Port Washington.

“I’ve been driving up and down Main Street and I’m desperate for coffee,” customer Justin Vigiano said. “I saw the line was around the corner, but it didn’t bother me one bit.”

A liquor store owner on Shelter Island said odor and mold caused by the saltwater aren’t scaring customers away.

“People are still coming in to buy their booze,” Dawn Lemieux told WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell. “We were closed yesterday, they went dry for one day and I’m sure that was one day too many, so we’ve been selling some liquor and as long as we’re all upright and breathing, we’re happy .”

In the Woodbury-Huntington area, cell phone service is spotty at best, making it nearly impossible to make or receive calls, WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported at 1 p.m.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reports

MTA chairman Joseph Lhota said the Long Island Rail Road had to evacuate its West Side Yards and suffered flooding in one East River tunnel.

All LIRR service remains suspended Tuesday. Penn Station and Jamaica Station are closed.

Crews will be deployed to conduct a full assessment of the damage to tracks and other infrastructure.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)