Long Island Drying Out After ‘Historic’ Storm Dumps Record Rainfall
NORTH BABYLON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Long Island was drying out and trying to clean up Thursday, after a “historic” storm that dumped a record amount of rain, swamped highways, flooded buildings and caused more than one sinkhole to open up.
Some roads were still impassable Thursday because of pooling water left behind from the storm.
MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma received 13.26 inches of rain from midnight to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, the highest single-day rain total ever in New York state.
“The drainage systems are designed for five to eight inches of water in a 24-hour period. In this case, you had 13-plus inches of rain in a few hours,” said Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci.
Suffolk County and the towns of Islip and Brookhaven have declared states of emergency after what County Executive Steve Bellone called an “unprecedented” deluge.
Meteorologist Jack Boston called the storm a once-every-50-years event. He said it was powered by tropical moisture and thicker than usual clouds.
“It’s not just how much rain fell; it’s how fast it fell,” Boston said. “We’re talking about billions and billions of gallons of water, and it all has to go somewhere.”
Neighborhoods Left Ravaged By Floodwaters
Still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, many residents were shocked by the flooding.
“This is the worst it’s ever been around here,” said Islip resident Anthony Carbone.
“Shocking because we didn’t know we were going to get this much rain,” a Lindenhurst resident said. “It was a surprise.”
As CBS 2’s Jennifer McLogan reported, anguished Islip residents were trying to dry out Thursday afternoon, as they dragged their sodden belongings out to the curb along Moffitt Boulevard.
Andrzej Sliwowski’s dining room was still soaking wet Thursday morning as he prepared to throw everything away. His elderly father-in-law pitched in with a dustpan.
“This year, it’s the biggest crisis ever,” Sliwowski told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell. “We got about six inches of water inside the house in our ground floor area. The backyard was flooded, I think the deepest point was about three or four feet.”
Twenty-four hours after the historic rainfall, Sliwowski and his neighbors on the Garretson Avenue cul-de-sac in Islip still had ducks swimming in their backyards.
As CBS 2’s Jessica Schneider reported, the Lutz family of Islip was left with a backyard that was a soggy, sinking mess. Their two cars were ruined.
They snapped pictures of the waist-high water that inundated their neighborhood and left them paddling through their street to higher ground.
“It’s really weird to wake up to do your normal routine, and then wake up and have to take the canoe out because you can’t get out of your driveway,” said Kelsey Lutz. “I was docking my boat at my mailbox.”
This was not the family’s first run-in with Mother Nature. Just months before Superstorm Sandy, their house burned down.
“When Sandy hit, we were actually staying in a trailer – a double-wide — on the front lawn,” said Tom Lutz. “Mother nature is what it is.”
Horror stories were growing as homeowners sought emergency relief. The American Red Cross on Long Island was inundated as its crews went door to door.
One Islip neighborhood was without power Thursday, and a cancer patient in his flooded home was in need of help, the Red Cross said.
“His house is completely destroyed. Mold is already setting in,” said Deborah Moffitt of the Red Cross. “I mean, this is not healthy for him. He’s receiving chemotherapy.”
In Lindenhurst, residents recovering from Sandy had been walloped again. Houses in the process of being raised for protection from flooding saw rivers of rainwater.
Craig Scutturo said his street was like a river Wednesday.
“There was water that was rushing down the street in the morning going north, and then towards the afternoon it was heading back south,” he told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell.
Scutturo is living in a trailer on his property because his house was destroyed by Sandy and he is still waiting for help.
Some Lindenhurst residents might give up on living there altogether, a contractor said.
“A lot of people are ready to move out and take their losses, because they’re not getting the help they need,” said Lindenhurst contractor Erik Galasso.
Many of the storm victims Wednesday were still waiting for funding from New York Rising. They blamed antiquated infrastructure – septic failures, and clogged sewers that should have been cleared.
In Brightwaters, a lot of small businesses lost everything.
And complicating the situation further was the fact that many homeowners live inland and have no flood insurance.
“This is not a flood area,” Sliwowski said. “We don’t have flood insurance, so this makes it really hard.”
At Islip Town Hall, emergency financial response teams took information from anguished and jaded homeowners, skeptical they would qualify for help.
“I blame it on the town, because they never fixed the sewers or the lines,” said Islip resident Calvin Gibson.
Nigel Jackson had five feet of water in his basement and was left to appeal to the town hall.
“Water came crashing through the basement door,” he said.
While many western Suffolk County homes were left in a condition that conjured memories of Sandy’s wrath, many homeowners were left without recourse.
“Here’s the problem — many of these homes on these creeks are not in a flood zone, so their insurance companies aren’t going to cover it, and that’s a huge issue for a homeowner, and then oh by the way, unless we get a disaster declaration and FEMA steps in, there’s no way for them to recover the cost of this damage,” Croci said.
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said efforts were under way to secure funds.
“The federal government has both grants and loans. Now, we have to meet a certain threshold for grants. We have to find that there was $25 million in total damage in this storm,” Schumer said. “We’re having (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) on the ground to count that up tomorrow.”