Hundreds of Suffolk residents seek help to pay for storm damage
Hundreds of residents -- many with children in tow -- showed up at Islip Town Hall West Thursday looking for answers on how to pay for the cleanup after Wednesday's historic deluge of more than a foot of rain.
Residents spoke with representatives from the state Department of Financial Services, which deployed a mobile command center in Islip where they helped homeowners contact their insurance carriers. More than 300 residents were seen by late afternoon, state officials said.
Many came with complaints such as basement flooding. Others have more serious issues -- fuel oil leaks, sewage backup, fallen trees and waterlogged or submerged automobiles, said George Haggerty, deputy secretary for the department.
Several homeowners said they did not have flood insurance. And some said they had dodged damage from superstorm Sandy only to be flooded by this storm.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Thursday directed the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to coordinate with local officials on damage assessments. He also expanded hours and locations of mobile help centers to Brookhaven and Babylon town halls, where they will be open through the weekend.
While roads flooded across a wide path of western Suffolk, Islip was a bull's-eye for the storm. The National Weather Service said a state record for 24-hour rainfall was set with 13.57 inches coming down from 11 p.m. Tuesday to 10 p.m. Wednesday in Islip.
One family's dilemma
Typical of those who came to the Islip command center was the Montross family, whose Bohemia basement flooded, ruining a playroom and destroying family photos.
"We called the insurance company; the first thing they asked is if we have flood insurance, and I said no," said Brian Montross, 34, an NYPD officer. Montross, who came with his wife, Kaitlin, 29, and children -- Madison, 3, and 3-month Austin -- added: "I don't know what the next step is. They said they'll have an insurance adjuster come out, but it could take days, a week. . . . Our house is starting to smell."
The Montrosses said superstorm Sandy spared them.
"If you're fine with Sandy, you don't expect this to happen," Kaitlin Montross said.
Late Thursday, Suffolk officials were still tallying their storm costs, said Justin Meyers, a spokesman for County Executive Steve Bellone. While a handful of Suffolk towns and Nassau County reported minimal financial impact, mostly in employees' overtime, officials in Brookhaven Town -- which reported 22 sinkholes -- said damages could be in the millions.
Stuck in sinkholes
In Centereach, two parked vehicles became stuck in sinkholes Thursday and one Wednesday in an AutoZone lot when the pavement gave way, according to a store employee.
The vehicles, including a tow truck, were later pulled out.
Suffolk police said they also responded to a report of pool damage due to a sinkhole at a West Islip on Keith Lane.
Officials said the key issue for many homeowners impacted by the rain is their lack of flood insurance, although individual policies may cover some water damage.
Cuomo's office said flood insurance is a federal program administered by FEMA. For FEMA to step in and help with assessments or financial assistance, Cuomo must request its help, said Don Caetano, FEMA spokesman. Cuomo has not yet done so, he said.
A Cuomo administration official said the state is in contact with FEMA and can ask for the agency's help after damage assessments are completed. Those assessments are now underway.
With Sophia Chang
and Darran Simon