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Long Islanders face the sound and fury of Tropical Storm Isaias

Long Island Rail Road passengers wait in Penn

Long Island Rail Road passengers wait in Penn Station after service was suspended due to Tropical Storm Isaias, Manhattan, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020. .... Credit: Charles Eckert

By early Tuesday afternoon, Tropical Storm Isaias had noisily announced its presence across Long Island. Wind gusts, clocked as high as 78 mph in spots, sounded something like an army of freight trains as they roared through, yanking large trees from the roots. Many trees fell onto homes or across roadways. But almost as sudden as its arrival, Isaias and the thick dark clouds that came with it, were gone. By 4 p.m., the sun began peeking through the clouds and Long Islanders started cleaning up.

"It was so loud"

For Diana Seemangal, 35, of Uniondale, the sounds of Isaias initially made her take notice. 

“When the first tree crashed, you could hear it. It was so loud,” Seemangal said. “Slowly, but surely, it only took 20 minutes to finally come down.”

After the storm had moved on, she surveyed the damage. The winds knocked down the privacy fence to Seemangel's apartment and part of the balcony of her upstairs neighbors.

Another fallen tree damaged a nearby fence separating the town house and apartment complex from a home on Avenue A. 

"You hear that cracking crash," Seemangel said. Then she knew the next sound would be a tree coming down.

“It’s scary because I have kids and we had to keep running out of the living room … You have to worry about what if a branch flies through a window and breaks in and we get hurt? I was really surprised to see how much damage this storm did.”

Superstorm Sandy didn’t wreak this kind of havoc on the complex when it struck nearly eight years ago, Seemangel said. Then again, everyone was without power for 10 days so it could be worse. Despite the damage Thursday and her frayed nerves, Seemangal's complex still had power. 

Olivia Winslow

Venturing out to commute

Despite knowing the storm's potential, several commuters went to work anyway, including David Madera, an outreach worker for the homeless from Lynbrook who boarded a Penn Station-bound LIRR train Tuesday morning.

“I don’t worry about it. The work’s got to get done … If the train’s not there, I’ll find a place,” said Madera, who was on his way to Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “I think of the people I work with, and they’re going to be out in the street … People are going to be there. We have to be there for them.”

Minutes before the Long Island Rail Road announced its shutdown, Josh Johnson was waiting for a train at the Valley Stream station. He sought shelter from the wind in one of the station’s stairwells. Yards away, other commuters struggled to stay upright while standing on the elevated station platforms.

“The roof is on the floor,” said Johnson, as he gestured toward several fallen shingles near his feet.

Alfonso A. Castillo

The Great South Bay comes ashore

By 1 p.m., the streets of Lindenhurst were littered with tree branches as crews scrambled to keep roadways clear.

Water spilled onto streets in the southern part of the village as the Great South Bay lapped up along docks and the shoreline. 

Scattered power outages forced several stores on Montauk Highway to work in the dark or close down.

Residents of the South Shore village, where the bay weaves into inlets reaching up to Montauk Highway, are veterans of storms.

Julian Aenlle of J-A Security Systems, took photos of the raging water by the Wellwood Dock during a brief break from work. The longtime Lindenhurst resident watched the coming storm with a wary eye.

“I took in a bunch of stuff last night, my flags, garden things — anything that can fly around,” he said. “I buttoned down the boat.” 

Lisa L. Colangelo

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