Hurricane Sandy: Rockland communities devastated by floodwaters
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Dozens of Rockland County residents along the Hudson River may lose their homes from floodwaters brought on by Hurricane Sandy, while tens of thousands are expected to be left without power for up to two weeks.
One of the hardest-hit areas was in Stony Point -- where foundations of homes, along with their front porches -- were swept away by 15-foot storm surges.
"This was a storm that was absolutely crazy," Stony Point Supervisor Geoffrey Finn said. "We're just fortunate that everyone is OK."
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Finn ordered an evacuation for low-lying areas by the river Tuesday, but not everyone complied. Local fire companies launched six boats that rescued 25 people from their second-story windows Tuesday night into Wednesday morning.
"This was an unprecedented storm," Stony Point Police Chief Brian Moore said. "They thought they could make it like they have during storms past, but they couldn't."
Homeowners on Hudson Drive in Stony Point cleaned up chunks of shattered wooden docks that washed up on their front lawns. The bow of a boat from one vessel landed just feet away from Susan Wright's property.
"We left at 9:30 p.m. [Monday] night because it got pretty scary," said Wright, who owns a one-story riverfront cottage home. "We got back around 7:30 this morning and there was debris all over the yard.
"We saw our house was intact so we knew the structure was OK. But we still weren't prepared to see what we saw."
Rebecca Casscles, 63, who has been living on the street for more than four decades, marveled at the destruction.
"They're condemned, look at those houses, all of them. Eight homes destroyed," Casscles said. "There's nothing left. The water came in at 12 to 15 feet. It swept away the doors, windows, everything is gone."
Finn said he's worried about another surge of water during high tide Tuesday night around 11 p.m.
"The storm is still going hard right now," Finn said. "We want people in evacuation areas to stay out of their homes until further notice."
A shelter, which housed more than 50 people Monday night, is still open at the Stony Point Ambulance Corp. at 6 Lee Ave. The Rockland Community College Field House (145 College Road, Suffern) is still open as a shelter as well, but is without power.
William Barbera, chief of the police division for the Rockland County Sheriff's Office, was surveying damage and reassuring residents fearful of looters.
"We will absolutely have officers all along the waterfront," Barbera told a crowd of worried residents.
About 78,000 Orange & Rockland Utilities customers -- about 70 percent of Rockland County -- remained without power as of Tuesday night.
"The storm hammered the system," said Mike Donovan, a spokesman for O&R. "We are in the process now of rebuilding the system."
Donovan estimated the majority of customers to be back in service within 10 days and the rest will take about 15 days.
Downed wires are still a concern. Donovan advised people to stay away from any dangling wires and call 1-877-434-4100 to report them.
The Towns of Clarkstown and Ramapo did not experience flooding, but have been affected by the power outages as well as road closures caused by downed trees and wires.
More than 100 roads remain closed or partially closed in Clarkstown. An emergency order to stay off the roads there was lifted at 6 p.m., but Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack urged people to stay in their homes.
In Ramapo, there are still 60 roads closed as crews work to clean up the mess.
"We got hit pretty good," Ramapo Highway Superintendent Tony Sharan said. "We have numerous trees on houses, we had gusts of winds up to 70 mph and a long period of sustained winds about 50 mph. That's when all havoc broke loose."
"It's going to take quite awhile," Sharan said of the cleanup. "We have a lot of lumber out there. It's not just twigs and branches. We have big size pine and maple trees on the roads and homes."
Orangetown -- where Sandy claimed the life of 51-year-old Jeffrey Chanin after a tree fell on his home -- waterfront apartments were flooded in Nyack and Piermont and their marinas were ruined.
"The waterfront has been really damaged. Boats are lost, they were swept off their moorings, we had boats on land, docks broken up and buildings damaged," said Orangetown Sup. Andy Stewart.
A houseboat, owned by Jerry Donnellan, the commissioner of the Rockland County Veterans Office, sank in the river after waters overcame it Tuesday night, Stewart said.
Meanwhile, Orangetown's Town Hall opened as a comfort station for people to recharge their cellphones and get Internet access. About 70 streets remained closed but travel restrictions are no longer in effect.
"There are no traffic lights operating, so I'm really urging motorists to take it down a notch," Stewart said. "Don't assume you have the right of way."
As Halloween approached, the Village of Piermont is attempting to cancel the holiday because of the storm's aftermath.
"It's a chaotic mess," Stewart said. "We ask that trick-or-treaters go out before it gets dark to avoid getting hit by a car. We don't wany anyone else getting hurt."