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Neighbors helping neighbors after Tropical Storm Isaias in Bayport

Sumayya Bajwa, 12, and her cousin, Manahil Siddiqui,

Sumayya Bajwa, 12, and her cousin, Manahil Siddiqui, 11, stand in front of one of the trees that was toppled on Railroad Street in Bayport, cutting off power to Sumayya's house and others nearby. Credit: Bart Jones

Some Long Islanders stepped up and helped their neighbors after trees fell. Others were left frustrated after they couldn't get anyone out quickly enough to help.

Here are their stories from Tropical Storm Isaias, which struck Long Island with wind gusts of up to 78 mph on Tuesday.

A bit of bad and good luck

Shaista Bajwa had some bad luck and some good luck at her home on Railroad Street in Bayport.

Three massive oak trees near her home came tumbling down early Tuesday afternoon as winds on the nearby Great South Bay roared up to 75 mph from Isaias.

She and other neighbors lost power as the trees took down utility wires and blocked the street. But strangely, one neighbor had electricity. He offered to run an extension cord from his house to her house next door to keep her refrigerator going.

Yet, another neighbor lent her an extension cord, since the ones she had were too short.

“It’s very nice of them,” Bajwa, 42, said Wednesday. “It’s very kind.”

The neighborly acts were something of a tradition for them. When superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, Bajwa had electricity and her neighbor did not, so she ran an extension cord from her house to his. “We take care of each other,” she said.

Across the street, the neighbor who lent her the extension cord Tuesday, Steve Maslak, had a generator running Wednesday, so he was good to go.

He was taking the outage in stride. “I can’t blame the utility company,” Maslak said. “They can’t be everywhere at once. Give them a break. They’re doing the best they can.”

— Bart Jones

Garden City man fears missing appointment

Alfred Caccamo, 92, of Garden City fears he won’t be able to make a medical appointment later this week because of a two 80-foot trees blocking his driveway, hemming in his cars.

“We saw the neighbor's tree snap off, and it was leaning against our tree. But when a big blow of wind came around, it knocked both trees down to the ground at the same time. That was it. Nothing else happened after that,” Caccamo said Wednesday morning, as he reflected.

“Our cars are trapped in the driveway” of his home on John Street, Caccamo said. He described the trees as Japanese Giant Tulip. His neighbor’s tree ripped up a section of sidewalk as its root was exposed.

Caccamo said he was grateful the trees fell sideways and not into his home, where he’s lived for 52 years and he and his wife raised seven sons.

— Olivia Winslow

Freeport man: It was 'just a giant boom'

A tree snapped in half on Lena Avenue in Freeport on Tuesday, damaging the roof of Michael Anderson’s home and bringing down power lines to the house.

“The roof’s affected to a certain extent,” Anderson, 62, said. “We’re not sure until we move that tree that’s sitting up on the top there right now." While he said trees in the neighborhood have come down before during powerful storms, this was the first time it’s happened at the home he and his wife Adrienne have lived in for about 10 years.

“The winds were just winds. It didn’t have that railroad sound,” though, Anderson said. And it was just a scary thought. It was a boom, which we’ve heard in the past when trees fall … It’s just a giant boom. I mean a boom. You know it’s a tree, if you’ve heard it before.” He added, “I’ve been waiting for the tree guy.”

Anderson said the power to his home was out and he had contacted Freeport Village, which operates its own power station. He said he was relying on his generator to provide some electricity.

— Olivia Winslow

‘Dad, the tree just fell on your car’

Not all the homes on Rutler Street in North Bellmore suffered a power outage, but a few did after Isaias brought one massive tree down across the dead-end street, blocking some residents from getting out. The tree came to rest on a car as well.

“You got that right,” said Arlene Gitter, when asked if her house was affected. Though the tree fell across the opposite side of the block, wires leading to her house and a neighbor’s were clearly brought down by the tree.

“This is a dead-end street. Anybody past here can’t get their cars out,” Gitter said. “This is the only way out.”

“The tree is hung up on the utility pole," Gitter added, noting that while the whole tree wasn’t on a neighbor’s car, several branches ended up covering the car almost from view.

That car — a gray 2012 Hyundai Accent — belongs to Mike Rooney, 71. “I can’t get out until the tree expert comes.” Rooney said he didn’t hear anything, but his son alerted him. “My son said, ‘Dad, the tree just fell on your car.’ ” Rooney said his son just happened to be looking out the window when the tree fell.

— Olivia Winslow

Homeowner didn't hear Maple hit roof

Chris Carroll went out back of her home in Patchogue on Tuesday to straighten up chairs and other items blown all over the place by the storm.

Then, to her shock, she looked up and saw that a 60-foot Maple tree in her side yard had been torn up by its roots and fallen on top of her second-story roof.

She never heard a sound. “It came down,” she recalled Wednesday. “I didn’t even hear a clunk on the roof.

There was no shake of the house” or anything to indicate it had just been struck. She figures it must have been a slow-motion collapse. And to her great fortune, it barely damaged the house. Just a few roof shingles torn off.

It could have been a lot worse. The tree could have fallen on her recently renovated first-floor porch. “I thank my lucky stars it fell the way it did,” she said.

Ironically, it was the other old Maple tree in the yard she was more concerned about. Its trunk was thicker. “Thirty-six years later” since she moved in, she said, “It’s still here.”

— Bart Jones

Patient says PSEG told him to wait

Lee Gellman, 68, needs electricity for oxygen and to relieve severe muscle pain. But the Jericho man said PSEG told him he’s not their top priority.

“What I’m told is happening as far as restoring power, the way they’re doing it, is whatever area they can work on that restores power to the most people, they’re doing that first,” he said. Gellman said he called a special PSEG unit for those in their “critical care program” — people who need electricity for medical-related reasons. Typically in a power outage, PSEG responds quickly, he said.

This time, “They said, ‘There are so many people you’ve got to understand and wait,’ ” Gellman said.

Gellman said he uses a machine that provides electro therapy about four hours a day for his polymyositis — an inflammatory muscle disease — and that since his power went out about 1 p.m. Tuesday, he has been on heavy pain mediations that have left him fatigued.

Told of numerous critical-care customers with urgent medical-equipment needs for electric service who said they had not been able to reach PSEG since the outage struck, PSEG president Dan Eichhorn said the utility was “in process today of reaching out to them. If we don’t get response, we go out to them” with a visit to homes, until a contact is made. 

— David Olson and Mark Harrington

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