FIRE ISLAND, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Virtually no one has been allowed on Fire Island since a mandatory evacuation went into effect nearly two weeks ago.
CBS 2’s Dana Tyler was given an exclusive tour of the widespread damage the popular summer destination sustained in Sandy’s wrath, as the island braces for another hit from the Nor’easter.
“When we came back there was no house there, no 2-by-4, nothing. No remnants of the house whatsoever,” Ocean Beach assistant fire chief Ian Levine told CBS 2’s Tyler.
Some homes seemingly vanished while others were so badly damaged that they were condemned. The pilings almost totally washed out from under some ocean-front homes, leaving them standing on what look like matchsticks, Tyler reported.
Officials estimate as many as eight in ten ocean-front homes on the island were left badly damaged from Sandy.
“Understand, there are no dunes here. There’s nothing protecting this community from the ocean,” Ocean Beach Mayor James Mallott told CBS 2’s Tyler.
Fire Island is a natural barrier island protecting Long Island’s south shore. Damage can be seen everywhere, especially on the beach where erosion on the island is the worst in 30 years, Tyler reported.
“There is a breach further east on the island and there have been several wash-overs,” Mallott told Tyler.
Sandy’s fierce wind and water also carved two new inlets, one reportedly as wide as a two-thirds of a mile.
The cutaways have left the narrow island even more vulnerable, officials said.
“I’m worried about the ocean breaking through” said Mallott.
Homeowners have yet to be allowed back on the island to assess the devastation for themselves.
A team of volunteer firefighters from communities like Kismet and Ocean Beach said they have been working around the clock to protect the remaining homes from fire. They have also worked to clean the roads of debris and downed wires.
“Our goal is to have Fire Island up and running like it was by the springtime,” Kismet Fire Chief Dominic Bertucci told Tyler.
Mayor Mallott said as long as the Nor’easter does not compound the damage, the island will continue to recover and rebuild from Sandy.
“Barring that, we’re trying to work out the plan to get people back here safely,” Mallott said.
Dredging the sand in the Fire Island Inlet is one proposal that could help protect the island in the future. Residents said they are on board and are just waiting for the green light from Albany.