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.”
Meanwhile, many in Bay Shore said conditions have vastly improved from Wednesday.
“Any street you tried to get down was flooded or there was a tree lying across the road,” resident Mindy Podesta told CBS 2’s Andrea Grymes. “But it’s much better today.”
During the height of the storm, firefighters encountered about 50 vehicles stuck in the rising waters on the Southern State Parkway in North Babylon.
Firefighters, who couldn’t access the parkway with their trucks, walked a quarter-mile through waist-high water to evacuate stranded people.
“We had occupants climbing out of windows because they couldn’t open their doors,” said Lt. Timothy Harrington, the first firefighter on the scene. “Some of the water was over the vehicles’ roofs. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Cars Left In Ruins; Sinkholes Remain A Threat
Meanwhile, the unprecedented rainfall destroyed hundreds of cars and flooded roads and paved surfaces. The damage became clearer Thursday afternoon after the water receded.
As CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, flash floods gave way to sinkholes in many areas.
At Bay Shore Commons, a gigantic sinkhole opened up at a shopping plaza Wednesday, swallowing pavement in the parking lot.
Assessors at the scene said a pipe burst because of pressure from a nearby creek that was overcome by the rains. The broken pipeline traveled through the basement of a smoothie shop and that caused the sinkhole.
Witnesses said a car drove over the road and made it across the pavement just as the ground started caving in.
Samantha Galarde watched as the sinkhole developed to about 15 feet across and 10 feet deep.
“I was just standing outside and I saw part of the ground start going down and slowly but surely the whole thing caved in,” she told Haskell.
A day later, merchants were worried what might happen next.
“Is it going to swallow up those stores?” said area store clerk Peter Marcus.
As 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported, the town of Islip has identified at least a dozen potholes and sinkholes caused by the heavy rain. In one instance, a dock collapsed when part of Montauk Highway caved in due to raging floodwaters.
Croci said storm draining systems were not constructed to accommodate so much water at once.
“The water was trying to find a way back to the bay to get out, and it shows old, historic stream beds that are under a lot of our structures and roadways, and the amount of water is what has caused what you’re seeing here,” he said.
On Thursday, pumps emptied drains and flooded highways. AAA said the damage was proof that the infrastructure was aging out.
“We are living on the largess of ancient infrastructure, and we need to do all that we can to update the infrastructure,” said AAA spokesman Robert Sinclair.
But there is no fix for severely flooded cars. Once water reaches the electronics in a newer model, auto experts said it is safer to replace it.
“There are so many electronics and computers and modules in cars — even if they work today, six months from now, something’s going to go wrong,” said an auto expert from Michael Anthony Auto Service.
Alan Wodzenski did not think to bring his car to higher ground, because he lives inland. Now his car is severely damaged.
“The water level was up to here, and I’ve got water damage all in there,” he said.
Comprehensive car insurance covers flood damage, but some drivers drop it to cut costs.
Cuomo: Financial Assistance On The Way
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is providing direct help for Long Islanders whose homes and businesses were damaged by the storm.
He announced the deployment of the Department of Financial Services mobile command center to provide insurance assistance to people affected.
“We give them help and guidance and advise with respect to whatever coverage they have,” State Department of Financial Services spokesman Martin Schwartzman told 1010 WINS’ Derricke Dennis. “So, for example, many people have automobiles that are damaged. If they have the proper coverage of their automobile policy, we could advise them how to get those claims. To the extent of damage to their house, we can advise them how to file their claims.”
Keisha Francios, of Bay Shore, said she came to the mobile command center Thursday because she lost everything in the storm.
“All my clothes, furniture, my boiler — everything,” she said. “I don’t know what they can do to help, but something. I don’t know.”
“Two feet of water was in the home, and the office is flooded,” Nancy told WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs. “And I don’t have flood insurance because I wasn’t in a flood area.”
The center was to be open Thursday until 8 p.m. at the Islip Town Hall parking lot on Main Street. More locations are expected to open in the days ahead.
For more information, click here.
Suffolk County officials said the Red Cross has also set up temporary shelters for displaced residents impacted by the storm and said residents whose homes sustained structural damage should contact their local municipality.
For more information from Suffolk County, click here.
There was one weather-related fatality on Long Island. Officials said a man died when a tractor-trailer hit his slow-moving sport-utility vehicle at the height of the storm on the Long Island Expressway.
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