At Theatre Three in Port Jefferson, a trail of mud and property damage was all that was left Wednesday morning of the deluge that flooded the building and forced its evacuation the night before.
Executive artistic director Jeffrey Sanzel, who was hosting auditions for “A Christmas Carol” at the theater when the storm hit, was taking account of what he estimated to be $50,000 in damage. He said the floodwaters ruined lighting and sound boards, a computer and other electrical equipment, as well as leather chairs, a filing cabinet and many of the souvenirs and memorabilia from his office on the lower floor.
“I lost everything in my office. I lost scripts, books, CDs, memorabilia and gifts and things from people that are no longer with us, which is the hardest thing,” Sanzel said. “This is the worst [storm] I’ve ever seen. This one was violent. The worst I’ve witnessed.”
Flooding besieged Port Jefferson Village, forcing at least three businesses to be evacuated, drivers to abandon their cars, and firefighters to call for reinforcements when their firehouse became waterlogged, authorities said.
Mayor Margot Garant on Wednesday said the storm caused at least $500,000 in damages to businesses.
She said the village has more than 16 trucks on the street helping to move dirt and stormwater runoff.
“They’re out picking up a whole lot of yuck,” Garant said.
Ruvo East restaurant owner Joe De’Nicola called the rainstorm a "devastating event." He estimated $200,000 in damage at his Wynn Lane establishment. Among other things ruined were a refrigerator and furniture.
“We have tremendous damage," he said. "We’re dealing with it minute by minute."
Also on Wynn Lane, Old Fields Restaurant sustained only minimal damage.
“A lot was salvageable,” said manager Mike Hernandez.
He said cleanup efforts were underway, and the establishment lost only paper goods. He said the restaurant would probably be closed through Thursday.
At the time of the storm, Sanzel said about 40 children were auditioning on the upper level of the building when it flooded with 3 to 4 feet of water. A window broke, a door buckled and water slammed against the walls, Sanzel said. He said he kept up the auditions on the upper level, which did not flood, until authorities arrived to evacuate the building.
“I said, ‘You know what, we’re going to keep going and we’re going to audition and you’re going to have a great story because that’s what theater is, having great stories,’ ” he said. “We didn’t stop because there was nowhere for these kids to go. This was the safest place for them to be.”
At the theater, several volunteers swept wet floors and removed damaged belongings.
Despite everything, Sanzel said it could have been worse. “We not in the Carolinas. Those people know what real devastation is,” he said.
Village resident Danielle Friedman, 38, was one of the volunteers helping to restore the building. She said her father-in-law is one of the theater's founders.
The building “is iconic,” and the storm was “crazy,” Friedman said of what moved her to volunteer.
The theater is hoping to clean up in time for its scheduled production of "The Addams Family" at 8 p.m. Friday, Sanzel said. To help recoup its losses, the theater also is accepting donations through its website, theatrethree.com.