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Long Islanders cope with storm's destructive force

On Seaman Road in Glen Cove, Emilio Bruno

On Seaman Road in Glen Cove, Emilio Bruno inspects his new Ford F-250 truck, which was crushed by a large oak tree during the weekend storm. (March 14, 2010) Credit: Michael E. Ach

Gail Marsicovetere stood in the Sunday morning mist, a coffee mug warming her hands, and gazed at her house, its left corner crushed by a fallen tree from a neighbor's yard.

Gone was the attached garage, the storage area on the second floor, and the stuff inside it, accumulated over 38 years in that home on Lehigh Road in Wantagh.

But Morley, Mocha and Princess - the family's two dogs and cat - were safe.

Marsicovetere, 62, and her husband, Gary, 64, were home when the tree slammed into their house around 7:30 p.m. Saturday, she said.

"I just heard this thundering crash," she said. "It sounded like a freight train."

Gary, who tried unsuccessfully all day to speak to an insurance agent, did manage to bring a little levity to the situation.

"Is it too late to put a for sale sign up?" he said.



At Treasure Island Marina in Seaford, more than two dozen boats lay on the ground or on the street Sunday morning when vice president Ray Reichel arrived to survey the damage caused by the storm.

Three customers who had come to check on their own vessels volunteered to help Reichel place the boats back on cinder blocks with the help of a forklift and a brace. The job took close to eight hours.

Most of the boats had cosmetic damage, though three vessels, including a 29-foot Chaparall powerboat with a hole several inches wide on the underside, sustained more extensive damage, Reichel said.

"I've been here 20 years and this is the first time I've seen boats do this," he said. "It must've been a huge gust of wind that just came by and wreaked havoc."

Volunteer Mark Hewitt, of Seaford, whose boat was unscathed but who suffered damage to his home's roof, said the sight of several tons of machinery strewn about reminded him of the power of the elements.

"Some of those boats are over 10,000 pounds," Hewitt said. "You're surprised how strong the wind really is to push a boat off the blocks and knock them to the ground."



Think Saturday's big storm interrupted your weekend plans? Meet John Baez Jr. of Asharoken.

Baez, 20, began his Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., where he is a junior chemical engineering major at Purdue University. Heading home for spring break, he took commuter trains to Chicago's Midway Airport, where he boarded a 1:40 p.m. Southwest flight to MacArthur Airport.

As the plane circled above Ronkonkoma, airport officials closed the runway and the flight was diverted to Manchester, N.H., where Baez spent the night at an airport hotel. Southwest put him on a Manchester-MacArthur flight set to take off at 6 a.m. Sunday morning.

But before that flight could complete its 40-minute journey, the pilot announced that this plane too would be diverted because of wind and flooding.

"At this point I'm thinking, 'Newark is nearby, LaGuardia is nearby,' " Baez said.

No such luck. The plane landed in Albany.

So Baez took a taxi to the Amtrak station for the 2½-hour ride to Penn Station. He spoke from a Huntington-bound Long Island Rail Road train that was being stopped at Hicksville because of flooding. Baez took a bus the rest of the way before his father - who for hours was marooned on Eatons Neck because the one road through Asharoken was washed out - could pick him up at the Huntington train station.

"It's been one crazy trip," Baez said, "for a trip that should only take two hours."



Last week, Ronald Lauder, heir to the Estee Lauder fortune and former ambassador to Austria, invested in 250 giant sandbags, each weighing 11/4 tons, to protect his oceanfront home in Wainscott from the approaching storm.

Lauder's big fix, which relied on the same kind of bags, called geo-cubes, that filled gaps in levees in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, appears to have worked. Billy Mack of First Coastal Corp., a Westhampton Beach shoreline preservation and restoration company that did the work, said Sunday Lauder's home made it through the storm undamaged.

The surrounding beach wasn't so lucky.

"We had two or three high tide cycles with waves over 17 feet and with the easterly wind, that really made it a recipe for erosion," Mack said.



Paula Shapiro, 58, said she called LIPA seven or eight times since Saturday to say that her mother Harriet Silkowitz, 79, was suffering with the cold due to lack of heat because the electric power went out in their home in East Meadow.

"I feel like an icicle it's so cold," said Silkowitz, who just a chemotherapy treatment on Wednesday after having a mastectomy in November. She also takes blood thinners after having had a triple bypass six years ago.

Shapiro said she was told the case was not a priority and that she should take her mother to a hospital.

"She doesn't need a hospital - at least not yet," is what Shapiro said was her response was.



In the northern section of Glen Cove, high winds toppled trees and power lines and Long Island Sound's waters washed over walls and backyards on East Island. Danas Highway, the main access road to the island, was cut off by downed trees on Saturday.

Bill Peterson, who has lived on Eastland Drive across the street from the Sound on East Island for nearly two decades, was at the heavily puddled municipal beach parking lot, looking around Sunday afternoon.

He said he fared well because he never lost power like those on the west side of the island, and his property, which is on a slight rise, was not flooded.

"I'm just in a lucky spot," Peterson said.

Pointing to the houses across from his right on the beach, he said, "they really take the brunt of it because the storm comes down the Sound from the northeast so the waves were very, very significant."

He said those homeowners had some water in their basements and streets had been flooded. Sunday afternoon the water had receded, leaving piles of sand and seashells and other debris on the pavement.

A Nassau County public works crew spent Sunday pumping sewage out of a manhole by the beach on East Island into a tank truck. They explained that with power out, the sewer pumping station for the area was out of action so they were emptying the sewers manually to keep them from overflowing.



Luigi Fanullone, 85, who has lived on Westland Drive for 50 years, was watching the street for signs of a LIPA crew that would restore his electricity.

"In the meantime he was making do with candles and flashlights.

"My backyard is filled with broken concrete" washed out of his sea wall.

"We had only a little bit of water in the basement," he said.

He said when things dry out, he'll have to hire somebody with a backhoe to clean up his property.

Next door, the waves had ripped planks out of a dock and dumped them on the back lawn.

Just then, Richard Biondi, president of the East Island Association, rode down the street on his bicycle to check for damage. "I have lived on Long Island Sound for 11 years and this is the worst I've seen," he said. "Sand from the beach is all over my lawn so a guy will have to come and clean it. A cement bench was moved 50 feet. Fortunately I didn't have any damage to my house. Some people had broken fences and a couple of feet of water in their basements."

As Biondi prepared to ride away, Glen Cove Mayor Ralph Suozzi pulled up in his official SUV with flashing emergency lights.

Suozzi said there were no emergency medical calls from the storm and no one had to be evacuated from their homes. He said public works employees worked Saturday night clearing trees, and police and auxiliary police officers secured roads where downed wires created a hazard. Suozzi said LIPA told him that some of the outages would not be restored until Monday or Tuesday.

He said worst damage from high winds came on the north side of the city, which is the most heavily wooded area. He said one 8-foot-diameter tree came down and took several utility poles with it behind homes on Seaman Road. The tree also crushed a Ford pickup truck owned by Emilio Bruno, 24, who lives with his father, Antonio, and destroyed several fruit trees his father had nurtured for decades.

"I bought it new in September and it had 5,000 miles on it," he said of the truck.

"It was 6:30 a.m. on Saturday and I was sleeping. It sounded like a bomb went off. I jumped up and looked out my window.

"It's quite a mess," he said of the scene in the backyard. And the tree wasn't even on their property. "I just have to laugh about it."

Nearby, a LIPA crew was replacing telephone poles and transformers dragged down by the tree.

Before he left, Suozzi summarized his feelings about the storm: "I am glad that it wasn't snow and that nobody got hurt."



In Bayville, waves from Long Island Sound pounded sea walls and flooded yards, and the main street, Bayville Avenue, was closed by waves in two places at the eastern end of the village on Saturday. At Ransom Beach, a Town of Oyster Bay facility at the western end of the village, large waves knocked down sections of beachfront fence that had been erected after a previous nor'easter several years ago.

One resident, who did not want to be named, brought in a contractor to pump several inches of water out of the basement of his house on the Sound shore. He was grateful that his stairs leading to the beach were still intact. And looking at seaweed and other debris that had washed between his house and a neighbor's, he added "at least the beach is clean."

Saturday night at high tide, waves sweeping across Oyster Bay flooded sections of West Shore Road in Mill Neck, one of two access roads into Bayville. Breaking waves splashed cars before depositing several inches of marsh grass on the highway.

Bayville Mayor Victoria Siegel said "Bayville fared quite well. We had winds of 50 to 70 miles an hour for most of the evening Saturday. That made it difficult to get any repair work done. Wind was driving the water over the embankments along the Sound. It breached Bayville Avenue at Pine Lane, which is the place where it always breaches, even though we had taken precautions."

Siegel said there were no calls from residents asking to be evacuated from their homes. She added that there was no serious flooding of any homes.

She said that the Town of Oyster Bay would be lending the village a sweeper truck on Monday to clean up sand and other debris from local roads.




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