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Sandy-Damaged Coastal Communities Prepare For Flooding As Winter Storm Approaches Tri-State

(credit: CBS 2)

(credit: CBS 2)

LONG BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Already-battered Tri-State Area coastal communities are dealing with another hit in the form of a winter storm packing rain, snow and high winds.

Temporary sand barriers are all that will stand between some Long Beach homes and rising flood waters during the storm.

Flooding remains a major concern in the city where some homeowners are still rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.

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For months, the city has been rebuilding sand dunes with old Christmas trees in an effort to protect hundreds of waterfront homes from battering waves and flood waters.

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“We remain vulnerable after Sandy, all of us do, particularly on the north side of the city,” Long Beach City Manager Jack Schnirman said. “We are encouraging residents, as we do typically see flooding on the north side, to take some precautions.”

Sandy swept away ocean dunes so barrier islands like Long Beach are now more vulnerable to storm surges. City crews were busy Wednesday shoring up their newly-built temporary dunes, hoping all three miles of them hold up to winds and surge.

“We’ve really done our best to push up that sand. This is our fourth nor’easter since Sandy,” Long Beach Public Works Commissioner Jim LaCarrubba told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

City leaders are making robo-calls ahead of the storm urging residents to use sand bags if needed, move cars from flood-prone streets and tie down outdoor furnishings, debris and construction material.

Folks living on the low-lying South Shore who normally flood are being warned to move cars to higher ground and tie down  construction items.

“I doubt we’re going to get the kind of water we got during Sandy,” said homeowner Steve Seigel.

But the wind was swaying street signs Wednesday night, serving as a warning for residents in high-rise apartment buildings on the shore to take cover.

“Yes it could be a possibility — if the winds get any stronger, I know if those sand dunes are even going to hold up,” resident Manuela Sing told CBS 2’s Derricke Dennis.

Farther east in Suffolk County, the water in low-lying areas was already rearing its menacing head Wednesday night, CBS 2’s Sean Hennessey reported.

In Copiague, the winds were strong enough to rock the CBS 2 live truck. Not far away, a streetlight flickered, foreshadowing the prospect of power outages.

“We’re just going to wait for the high tides and see if that happens,” said Mike Mignone of Lindenhurst, whose home was damaged by Sandy.

With canal water so close to home, he was not taking chances Wednesday night.

“We hear at 3 a.m., there will be a high tide. We might be getting my fiancée’s car out of here just to make things a little easier on us,” Mignone said.

Diane DeStefano’s home was elevated by four feet after heavy damage from Sandy, which is why with water encroaching on her property, she was not too concerned. But the gusts of Mother Nature were another issue…

“The wind is pretty ferocious back there. The house is shaking the windows are shaking,” DeStefano said. “So we’re just going to cross our fingers and pray for the best again.”

Authorities were watching and waiting on the wind.

Basically because of Sandy, if there’s enough wind it could actually take the dunes away. You’ve got to watch the high tides with the flooding,” said Kevin Walsh of Babylon Public Safety.

PREPARATIONS IN WESTCHESTER COUNTY

In Westchester, businesses along the Hudson River are just getting back on their feet after being wiped out by Sandy.

Jimmy Parker, the owner of Red Hat on the River in Irvington, said his restaurant had to be closed for two months after it was inundated with waist-high water during the superstorm.

Parker said he is not concerned about the nor’easter headed for the area, but is instead focused on future hurricanes and flood prevention measures.

“We’ve been through lots of storms down here and gusts of 70, 80 mph. It has not affected us at all,” Parker told WCBS 880’s Monica Miller. “If it costs several billion dollars to build some sort of dam system down south, well it costs 10 times that every time we have a flood.”

VOLUNTARY EVACUATIONS IN BRICK, TOMS RIVER

In New Jersey, officials in Brick Township and Toms River have called for voluntary evacuations in flood-prone areas, especially those hit hard by Sandy.

“If they’re on a low-lying area or a barrier island, we’re asking them seek higher ground,” said Brick Township Mayor Stephen Acropolis.

Crews are building up dunes as high as possible to prevent flooding on Route 35 and protect the homes that are left in the back bay areas.

Despite the dunes, officials say waves could reach 15 feet and pour right over them. Emergency crews and heavy-duty military trucks are on standby.

“We are staging some high-wheeled vehicles,” said Acropolis. “We want to makes sure we take that precaution now.”

In Seaside Heights, reconstruction of the iconic mile-long boardwalk which was destroyed by Sandy is temporarily on hold as crews prepare for the latest storm.

Reconstruction of Seaside Heights boardwalk put on hold as crews prepare for nor'easter. (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

Reconstruction of Seaside Heights boardwalk put on hold as crews prepare for nor’easter. (credit: Steve Sandberg/1010 WINS)

“Right now we’re focused on securing all the lumber that’s on the beach, bringing in all the equipment off the beach and onto the streets,” lead contractor Steve Carro said. “Batten everything down for the storm coming in.”

Carro said he doesn’t expect the storm to delay the boardwalk’s Memorial Day opening.

If you went to Seaside Heights on Wednesday, you were advised not to open your mouth near the shore because of the blowing sand.

“We don’t have the dunes that we had before Sandy,” Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardi told WCBS 880 reporter Levon Putney on Wednesday.

A lot of the wind blew inland and was blowing again Wednesday, along with the rain. So, this nor’easter is a concern, especially for homes and businesses near the water.

“Right now, we feel fairly confident that our dune will hold up,” Mastronardi told Putney, noting that that’s at least until the overnight high tide.

That’s the concern, said Mastronardi, noting that even then, only Brick issued a voluntary evacuation. Only one school in Lavallete closed early.

“But the rest of the communities, we have about 2,000, just over 2,000 that are here, that are back on the island and we feel that they can get off very easily, safely,” he said.

But in the interim, he asked folks to stay inside.

Police chiefs from up and down the barrier island met in Seaside Heights with state police OEM to get on the same page Wednesday.

And in Ortley Beach, winds were beating so violently Wednesday evening that CBS 2’s Christine Sloan nearly lost her hat. But the community was to be spared from the flooding that devastated it during Sandy.

Mike Forcella lives in the area, and kept his eye on the water Wednesday because he said he will never forget what Sandy did.

“I saw the ocean coming down, and it was almost ominous. We said, ‘Holy cow,’ and it actually came down, and it went south and started emptying in the bay, and I said: ‘I’m very lucky. I’m fortunate,’ and within a half hour, the bay filled up like a pot in the sink,” Forcella said.

Ortley Beach has not been taking any chances, building up sand dunes on the beach to protect what is left. And Forcella was quick to say it’s not much.

“It’s sort of living in Beirut – I hate to say it. You know, there’s devastation all around us, and it just doesn’t seem to go away,” he said.

In Point Pleasant, residents bought huge rocks and placed them on the beach to protect their homes from possible flooding. Nearby, Tom Faragalli and his partner run a business that had been scheduled for its grand opening as Sandy hit.

“We’re 80 percent done, and then the hurricane came in and we had about 6 foot of water in this building,” said Faragalli, co-owner of Johnny Fries.

So they picked up and rebuilt.

“It was the worst thing that could happen to us, but now we came back. We survived. We’ll make it again,” said co-owner John Spadavacchi.

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