Displaced LI residents uneasy about return

Al and Carmen Rosales recover belongings from part

Al and Carmen Rosales recover belongings from part of their home that floated down block and ended up at intersection of Ocean Avenue and Spring Street. The couple recovered some belongings, including Carmen's engagement ring that she shows off. (Oct. 31, 2012) (Credit: James Carbone)

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Residents displaced from their homes aren't sleeping easy.

Many of them were consumed with worry about the homes they fled -- and the destruction they would encounter when they finally go back.

Thomas Mason was concerned while staying in Uniondale with friends that his flooded Freeport home was a total loss, and he was right.

Mason said the Front Street cape has trees on its roof, a four-foot waterline on the first floor and a flooded crawl space. He said he has no idea when -- or even if -- he will be able to return home, because the house is unsafe.

"Lo and behold, we came back and you have damage," Mason said. "It's devastating."

He said he and his wife and pets are shuttling between in-laws' homes in Queens and East Meadow while they determine if their home can be saved. The damage is easily more than $15,000 and could be a total loss, Mason said.

Waterlogged in Babylon

When the deluge partly filled Joseph Timme's house on Monday, he sought help from Babylon Village officials but eventually found his way to the Brentwood High School shelter.

"I was stubborn and stupid and wanted to stay in my house until the water started coming in," said Timme, 63, whose Babylon house is close to the Great South Bay.

On Tuesday, with the help of an American Red Cross volunteer, he traveled back to his flooded house and realized he should remain at the shelter.

"There's still water in the home and I can't start my car -- it's shot," he said, sitting on the cot where he spent the night inside the gym.

Stuck at Levittown shelter

At a shelter in Levittown, Sylvia Wilson, 43, wondered about the state of her Long Beach home. "The hardest part is not knowing what's left back home," Wilson said.

Carrie Hall, 32, also of Long Beach, said she was at the shelter with her two sisters and stepfather, who suffers from dementia. "We're hopeful we will be able to go back home soon," Hall said. "We'll be able to pull ourselves together."

But Jason Baylor, 31, of Long Beach, had already seen what the storm could do -- he stayed in his third-floor apartment until Tuesday, when he finally made his way to the shelter at Nassau Community College. "The flooding is gone, but everything is wrecked," he said.

Several hundred people from Long Beach were bused to the shelter Wednesday, said Brille Hill, a member of the Disaster Action Team for the Red Cross. "It's just so sad," she said. "There are people who completely lost their homes and have nothing" to go back to.

Shocking return to Lindenhurst

Pat Bernardo had last seen the home he shared with his 84-year-old mother on Willow Lane in Lindenhurst Monday night, when a search and rescue team pulled them through waist-high water to safety on an inflatable boat.

"If you don't come now, there will be no help if it gets worse," Bernardo remembered they told him, so they left without much more than his cellphone and wallet. His mother, Frances Bernardo, diabetic and mostly blind, said Hail Marys and Our Fathers until they made it past Montauk Highway. They ended up at the shelter in Deer Park.

Wednesday, the Hattats, three generations of neighbors from down the block who'd also come to the shelter, had heard they were being allowed back. So, while Frances Bernardo stayed at the shelter, everyone else piled into two cars and drove down.

From the outside it looked good: The water had receded and there wasn't much debris on the lawn of either house. But inside was bad.

"This is horrible," said Gem Hattat, 46, a contractor. The carpets and beds and belongings on the first floor were saturated with water. A line of filth two feet high on the wall showed where the water had been. There was no electricity and no gas, and the place stank.

Gem's mother, Bahtiyar Hattat, 73, started to cry. She'd bought this house in 1989 with the money she'd saved running a small chain of local gas stations, renovated the place to make it beautiful -- and now this.

"Everything is gone," she said.

Belongings strewn like debris

For Carmen Amador, when she returned to her Lindenhurst home, she realized that it was time to start over.

The back part of her house on East Bayview Road was gone, leaving a raw scape of kitchen, drywall and insulation.

"Hurricane Sandy totally destroyed my house," said Amador as she rooted through debris. "We came back to total devastation. We're not trying to engage in some sort of recovery effort, but it's basically a total loss. The contents of my home are all over the street."

A white fridge here, siding there, chairs, a gray, shingle roof, a muddy teddy bear by a red milk crate.

Then, some minutes' walk from her home, she noticed her jewelry container bureau on its backside in someone's yard at Ocean Avenue and Spring Street.

As she opened a drawer, a tiny thing sparkled -- the engagement ring her fiance Al Rosales gave her. Amador put the ring of white gems, its flower pattern unblemished, on a finger that showed the dirt from a debris search.

"We're all healthy and we're safe and my family is intact," she said. "That's what matters. Everything else is replaceable."

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