Sandy: Hudson Valley merchants, sightseers brave storm

Even as the first fierce winds and surging waters of Hurricane Sandy began to arrive in the lower Hudson Valley Monday afternoon, scattered stragglers, die-hard merchants and sightseers were out braving the storm.

In Mamaroneck, some low lying neighborhoods off the Old Boston Post Road were being evacuated due to flooding. But in parts of the village, there were still a few stores open, and people were leisurely walking around near Harbor Island Park.

On Mamaroneck Avenue, where some business owners had boarded up and taped windows, and placed sandbags in front of doors, a handful of pizza shops and delis were still open.


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Giovanni Scasso, a co-owner of the family-owned Cosmo-Alex and Pisano Italian Deli, was busy with orders for heros and deli platters from people riding out the storm. He said he planned to stay open as long as he could.

"People need food, so we're staying open," he said. "It's been crazy all day."

Ester Grandolph, of Rye, took her two granddaughters, Emily, 5, and Lisa, 10, for a walk along the Old Boston Post Road as the winds picked up speed.

"We just wanted to see a little of Mother Nature," she said, as powerful gusts made it difficult to stand in place. "We're going home now. It's getting worse."

In Harbor Island Park, Emilio Sanchez and his friends were watching the wind-driven waves lap over the seawall. They are construction workers who live in the village and got the day off because of the storm.

"It's just a storm," said the 28-year-old Sanchez. "I've been through worse than this."

But there were already signs that Sandy was more than just a storm.

Some areas off the Old Post Road were already washed out.

Margaret Powers, 72, of Mamaroneck, watched nervously from her second-floor window in an apartment complex on Hill Street as police cordoned off several streets where flooding was already bad.

"It was really bad last year," she said, recalling the flooding in her neighborhood from Lee and Irene. "And we lost power for a couple days."

Her son was coming up from the Bronx to stay with her during the storm. She had stockpiled all the essentials - water, batteries and food, she said.

Outside the Stop&Shop in Mamaroneck, a handful of people were scrambling to pick up last-minute supplies.

"I worked this weekend and didn't get a chance to do my shopping," said Teresa Baines, 23, of Larchmont. "I'm going home now to spend the night with my friends and ride out the storm."

Across the Hudson River in Rockland County, more than a dozen people drove down to Haverstraw Marina to see the storm play out on the water.

"We thought we'd be the only screwballs here," said Rocco Suozzo of Garnerville.

His son Robert drove him down to the shoreline. And after getting a look at waves crashing against the banks of the Hudson, they headed home.

"I think it's definitely going to get worse," Robert said.

"You can't fool with Mother Nature," his father added .

Hugh Casey, 47, of Emerson, NJ, was at the marina to make sure his 30-foot sailboat was tied down.

"I love this kind of weather," Casey said.

But he was not tempted to bring the sailboat, named "Y-Knot," out for a spin.

"This weather is for little tugboats chugging along," Casey said. "I used to be a lot more adventurous. "Not since I had kids."

Up the river in Highland, Rich and Connie Dutra watched for the second time in a little more than a year as waves lapped the parking lot and deck of the restaurant they own, Mariner's on the Hudson. The tide was peaking for the afternoon, at 5.3 feet, bringing the water level to just below the popular Walkway Over the Hudson. Forecasters predict the surge to reach a record 8.3 feet at Poughkeepsie around midnight.

"We have to wait and see, I guess," said Rich Dutra, who bought the restaurant with his wife three years ago.

The couple is better prepared for Sandy after living through Tropical Storm Irene, when water reached table-top height in the dining room, tipped over heavy-duty freezers and washed bottles of Jack Daniels down the river.

On Sunday, volunteers, including 10 varsity football players from Highland High School, spent eight hours removing supplies and equipment from the restaurant.

"We did as much as we can," Dutra said, before walking back into the restaurant to lock up.

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