Hurricane Sandy: Residents share post-storm stories

The Ortiz family spent the night at a

The Ortiz family spent the night at a neighbor's house after Hurricane Sandy's winds toppled a tree on top of their home. (Oct. 30, 2012) (Credit: Betty Ming Liu)

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Newsday Westchester reporters spoke to people throughout the Hudson Valley after Hurricane Sandy bore down on the area. Here are some of their stories.

Storm surge damages waterfront restaurant in Highland

Rich Dutra picked up two soggy five-dollar bills from the floor of Mariner's on the Hudson, a waterfront restaurant at 46 River Rd. in Highland.


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"Well, it's not a total loss," the general manager said Tuesday, standing in a back office where the Hudson River surged halfway up the walls during Hurricane Sandy, tipping over a computer and wetting the bottom of a child's drawing tacked to a cork board.

The river rose to a record 9.54 feet early Tuesday morning near Poughkeepsie, according to the National Weather Service.

Dutra and his wife Connie, who own the restaurant, had barely recovered from Tropical Storm Irene when Sandy started brewing. The couple took over the restaurant just three years ago and have experienced two devastating storms since.

This time, the Dutras were more prepared, moving what they could out of the restaurant and elevating the rest. Yet the water levels rose even higher this time. Coolers that were stacked five feet off the ground were tipped over Tuesday morning, river sediment soiled the floors and liquor bottles were tossed around the dining room.

Rich Dutra breathed a sigh of relief as he entered the front dining area for the first time: at least the chairs, which he spent the entire summer refinishing, were spared.

"We're going to take a bunch of pictures and figure out where we go from here," he said. -Meghan E. Murphy

Katonah hardware store assists residents post-Sandy

Even with the power out in Katonah, one store was open with the goal of helping residents cope with the storm’s aftermath.

"We're an emergency resource for the community," said Bart Tyler of Kelloggs & Lawrence Hardware Store. Opened in 1896, the store is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

Tyler and his wife, Diana, the store’s proprietors, opened at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

"Thank you for being open," a woman said after buying a small part for her gas grill. "We couldn't think of anything better to do," Tyler said.

Tyler wore an LED lamp around his head as he helped customers trawl for drainage hoses, chainsaws and sump pumps. Someone from the school district came by earlier in the afternoon with news about Wednesday’s school closures so the Tylers could spread the word to their customers.

While "things have finally stopped falling," Tyler said he fears the massive power outages in New York City will prolong the time without power for people in Northern Westchester.

"It's going to suck all the resources toward the city to get them back up and running," he said. -Timothy O’Connor

New Rochelle shelter assists those in need

Janice Lehman, who has volunteered for the Red Cross for 13 years, flew up Saturday morning from South Carolina to be one of eight volunteers to staff the makeshift shelter at Albert Leonard Middle School in New Rochelle. While the shelter housed only 11 residents overnight, Lehman is expecting that number to climb.

"If they need to transfer others from [crowded] shelters, we may get some more people -- up to 150," she said, noting that many of the potential transfers could come from New Jersey, which was hit particularly hard last night.

At the shelter, some residents received hot meals and slept in cots set up in the gym, where kids were allowed to play basketball during the day.

"I've seen some pretty bad national disasters, and I'd say on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the worst, that I would rank this about an 8," said Lehman, who has responded to tornado zones in Tuscaloosa and massive floods in Pennsylvania.

Blas Bonilla, a Brooklyn resident and entertainment promoter, was also volunteering at Albert Leonard.

"I just wanted to do something for humanity," he said. "I just couldn't stay home without doing something for people in need."

The lone male Red Cross volunteer on site Tuesday morning, Bonilla put his bilingual skills to work, aiding an Argentine woman and her four grandchildren on site. He said he was happy to see the children start to relax, especially after a few games of basketball.

"Kids can be scared," Bonilla said. "They can be coming into a place with a bunch of strangers, but with the volunteers here, we made them feel more comfortable. ... Making them feel safe was one of the best things."

A New Rochelle resident since 1968, Maria Kaiser was the first person to check into the shelter Monday morning after her power went out.

"I was the first one here, and they welcomed me with open arms," she said.

Kaiser, who works as an interpreter in Westchester County courts, said her daughter invited her to stay with her, but didn't have electricity either. She commended the Red Cross volunteers for making her feel "very comfortable" during her overnight stay.

"Plenty of blankets," she said with a laugh. "And plenty of good care." -Chris Serico

Girl recalls tree falling on house in Nyack

About 7 p.m. on Monday night, a massive tree completely uprooted on Clinton Street in Nyack, taking two slabs of concrete sidewalk with it before landing on a house.

"Their porch is completely gone," said Dahlia Luongo, an 11-year-old who lives next door. "It crushed our car, too."

In the aftermath of the storm, the owners of the ruined home declined to comment, as did Luongo's parents.

"We heard a lot of cracking, then a big crash. ... I started crying," Luongo recalled. "Our gutters are ruined and the side of our house got scratched, but luckily everyone over in that house is fine." -Sarah Armaghan

Destruction elsewhere in Nyack, too

Near the luxury building at 3 Main St. in Nyack, where the first-floor apartments flooded, water had not receded as of Tuesday afternoon. Fire crews worked to block off the streets that circle down by the water as sewage started to rise, creating a health hazard.

Nyack resident Jay Colgan, 43, came down to the waterfront last night and again this morning to survey the damage.

"The surge was really high last night," he said. "Waves and surf were breaking into the parking lots like it was the ocean."

Jose Magana, a 34-year-old town worker who'd been directing traffic since 8 a.m. Tuesday, confirmed that there was major destruction throughout the area.

"It's been crazy," he said. "The water levels have stayed the same since this morning. ... The whole parking lot is covered ... apartments are flooded, docks are gone. There was a houseboat that sunk here last night. It's gone, nothing left." -Sarah Armaghan

Downtown Irvington under water

On downtown Irvington's waterfront business district, a number of high-end restaurants and shops were affected by surging waters during Hurricane Sandy. The entrance to Red Hat on the River, a bistro at 1 Bridge St., was covered in mud. Although surrounded by sandbags, the Eileen Fisher Lab Store next door also appeared to have suffered water damage.

Dobbs Ferry couple Navjot and Anu Arora opened Chutney Masala, an Indian bistro at 4 W. Main St., 4 1/2 years ago. They spent about $500,000 to renovate the venue, which features exposed brick walls and a tiled bar. When they reached their business today to check for storm damage, they found a three-foot-high watermark on the mustard-colored walls. The elegant table settings, white plates and dining chairs were strewn throughout the kitchen and dining area, and the dark wood floor now buckles in some spots. Unfortunately, the couple do not have flood insurance.

"I don't know if we can turn this around," Anu Arora said.

Her husband agreed. "There's not much we can do right now. It's not sunk in yet," he said.

They plan to see if they can get assistance from FEMA or elsewhere.

"It's going to be a tough recovery for us," Navjot Arora said. -Betty Ming Liu

Bedford hammered by Sandy; Italian restaurant reopens

The picturesque town of Bedford, which lost power throughout, was hammered by Sandy. Huge trees lay in haphazard piles along the side of Route 172 and across the road, and large pines had already been cut and lined up to be taken away. In the quiet village, power lines lay on the ground along Route 22, where a large A&P supermarket remained dark and empty.

At Ristorante Lucia on Old Post Road, chef Alessandro Dalesso watched as a crew of three hacked up a giant tree that had crashed down in the rear parking lot overnight, crumbling a steel guardrail like foil wrap.

"We were expecting a bad storm," he said, "but nobody was expecting anything this bad."

A generator growled, giving power to the Italian restaurant. He planned to be open for dinner Tuesday night, but has no idea when his gas and electricity will be restored.

"Nobody has told us anything yet," Dalesso said. -Timothy O'Connor

Tree crashes through Dobbs Ferry house, lands in boy's bed

At around 8:30 p.m. Monday, the screaming storm knocked over a huge tree that crushed the upstairs bedroom of Noah Ortiz and landed smack in the middle of his bed. Good thing the frightened 5-year-old was downstairs with his mom getting into his pajamas.

"I was looking for something to grab when the tree knocked over and my mom was the closest," he said.

Trying to keep Noah calm helped steady his parents, David Ortiz and Joana Otaiza, both criminal lawyers who rented the house at 60 Florence Ave. in Dobbs Ferry earlier this year. After the incident, they made it across the street and stayed with Anna Mobilia, 82, and her son, Carmine.

As his mom and dad figure out what to do next, Noah looks forward to getting a new bed and considers himself lucky.

"The tree broke the house, but none of my toys got destroyed," he said. -Betty Ming Liu

A tree on fire in Hastings

James Sarfaty, fire chief of the all-volunteer department in Hastings-on-Hudson, said he's had 90 firefighters on call since 3 p.m. Monday. At 4 a.m., a tree came down on Hopke Avenue at Olinda Avenue, snapping a pole in the process, which ripped out an electrical transformer and some cables. Soon after, the tree started burning.

At 7:30 a.m., the firefighters were still there waiting for Con Ed to cut the power so that they could take out the tree. Sarfaty said this was just one of "dozens and dozens" of calls they'd received about downed trees and arcing wires causing small fires.

"It was a rough spell there when the storm really kicked in," he said.

Down the block at 17 Hopke Ave., Richard Ceccolini had gone since 7:15 p.m. without power despite having a generator available, which he didn't turn on due to the arcing-wire situation.

"What are you going to do?" he said. "Can't fight Mother Nature."  -Betty Ming Liu

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