Brookhaven focuses on downed trees from Sandy

One of the five large trees that fell One of the five large trees that fell in Kings Park during Sandy. The tree on Dorothy Lane landed on the house directly across the street. (Oct. 30, 2012) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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The slow and painstaking task of restoring power to Long Island could be seen on Shell Road in Rocky Point Thursday, where a tall tree leaned across the road into a light pole and power lines.

LIPA and Brookhaven highway department crews examined the situation. The tree had to be removed, but first the lines had to be depowered -- plunging 30 houses in the area back into darkness after power had been only restored Wednesday night.

When the lines were dead, a worker in a bucket truck started cutting down the tree, limb by limb.

This scenario will repeat itself by the hundreds, maybe thousands all over Long Island.

"There are only trees on [electric] wires now left in the county," Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said of the damaged trees left to remove.

Bellone said the county roads are now cleared of trees, and he has offered the services of the county Department of Public Works to towns that need extra manpower. "You guys are the ones bearing the burden," he told Brookhaven highway supervisor John Rouse while observing the LIPA operation.

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Like Rocky Point, Brookhaven's other North Shore communities seemed to have been hit the worst with fallen trees, Rouse said. "The North Shore took the brunt of it," he said, citing the denser tree coverage in the area. More than 1,173 phone reports of fallen trees have been logged, he said.

The town focused on clearing major roadways first to help first responders, and by Thursday Rouse said all major roads were cleared of tree blockage.

"We're focused on trauma surgery right now," Rouse said. "We'll get to cosmetic surgery later."

The town's highway crews stayed on the job even through the brunt of Sandy.

"It got pretty hairy," said Highway Zone Supervisor Ed Stegmeier, who covered an area around Yaphank in a crew armed with a plow and a payloader during the storm. As the wind and rain raged around him, Stegmeier received dispatcher instructions on the locations of fallen trees and he cleared them.

While he's weathered storms before, Stegmeier acknowledged, "I was worried about my men . . . They did a great job."

Shell Road resident Kinya Manuelle offered coffee to the crews working on the tree on her street. Her home had power until after the storm, when it went out Wednesday morning and came back later that night.

Her family was lucky, she said. "We have some roof damage, nothing severe" Manuelle said. "The hardest thing is keeping the kids entertained."

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The town's recovery was proceeding though "slowly, very slowly," said acting town supervisor Kathy Walsh. She said Town Hall still hadn't had Internet service restored. And she worried about fraying tempers.

"It's getting worse for people without power. They're getting impatient," she said, and urged residents who still lack power to check into shelters for food and a change of scenery.

Bellone said that while power was being restored, residents in remote areas might have to think about a candlelit Thanksgiving. "People in the barrier islands can expect that for sure," he said.

FEMA will start accepting disaster relief applications starting Monday at the Dennison Building in Hauppauge, Bellone said.

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