A quickly dwindling supply of wet vacs greeted shoppers near the entrance of the Bay Shore Lowe's Tuesday, available for those, mostly on the South Shore, dealing with flooded basements.
Chuck Valenti, 52, needed one for his flooded West Islip office building, where he works for a securities firm. After leaving work, he planned to pump out the basement of his West Islip home, which was also flooded.
"I went downstairs this morning, put my feet on the ground, and it was a puddle. It was unbelievable," said Valenti, adding that his basement flooded only one other time in the 20 years he lived there. "I was able to save my drum set - my most prized possession."
In Central Islip Tuesday afternoon, Enrique Arancibia was on his 21st hour of pumping out his basement. Even with Arancibia filling up and emptying out his 16-gallon wet vac tank at two-minute intervals, he could not keep up with the rising water as it seeped through his basement walls - destroying a computer and soaking clothes in a closet.
"Imagine if I had slept last night," he said. "The water would have been up to the first floor."
Ralph Capone, who works at Atlantic Do It Best Hardware in Freeport, had to turn away customers looking for pumps because they had sold out.
Darien Jorif already had a pump, but needed connector parts and a hose. Back at home in Baldwin Harbor, where his basement floor was covered with about two inches of water, Jorif connected the pump and braced for more rain as his two children helped clear away garbage bags filled with soggy toys.
Jorif said he's not sure he'll bother with his flood insurance, which came in handy during more severe flooding five years ago.
Policies don't always protect from damage caused by heavy rain, insurance experts say.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration broadly defines a flood as an excess of water on land that is normally dry.
"Water in the basement is not necessarily covered," he said, adding that his agency received more than a dozen calls from homeowners with water in their basements. With Keith Herbert