Rodney Tramantano knew Mastic Beach was under mandatory evacuation orders when Tropical Storm Irene barreled through, but stayed anyway -- and watched his home turn into an island as other holdouts donned bathing suits and swam up flooded Locust Drive after the storm.
"I used to be a lifeguard," he said. "This doesn't scare me."
The havoc wreaked by Irene on Mastic Beach -- where flooding as deep as four feet stretched as much as 2,000 feet north of Moriches Bay -- led Rep. Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) to describe the area as the "most severely affected" on Suffolk County's hard-hit South Shore, after a helicopter tour early Monday.
Mastic Beach residents were among thousands across Long Island who spent Monday mopping up and pumping out.
In Freeport, Stephen Parke emptied the contents of his garage -- much of which, including a computer, was ruined by floodwater several feet deep. The building, too, looked like a lost cause. The foundation heaved in the storm and the entire garage now leans.
In Patchogue, Alana Kierstead surveyed an uprooted sycamore tree in front of her Brightwood Street home, one block from Great South Bay, but like many village residents said she's lived through worse than Irene.
"Water people are tougher people," she said.
The worst damage in Patchogue appeared to be to Mascot Dock, where 60 mph winds rendered unstable the 25-year-old boardwalk. Mayor Paul Pontieri estimated damage at about $1 million and said the dock would be closed indefinitely.
A popular summer gathering spot, the dock and nearby bandstand were submerged Sunday. Smith Street, which runs alongside the bandstand, was flooded four feet deep, residents said. By Monday the water had receded, leaving behind the stench of seaweed and fish flopping in soggy backyards.
On Rider Avenue, residents such as Dennis Conroy had two hoses attached to pumps sucking water out of crawl spaces.
In Mastic Beach, too, flooding had largely receded, though large puddles remained on many roads. Homes with major exterior damage and partially torn roofs were a common sight. Residents complained of heavy flooding in homes and basements. Village building inspectors were still determining how many structures were rendered unsafe, said deputy mayor Gary Stiriz, adding that the village would apply for FEMA assistance.
"The main thing is we didn't have anybody hurt," he said.
Mastic Beach had isolated incidents of looting, said Brookhaven councilman Daniel Panico, who represents the area. He said Suffolk police have stepped up patrols in the area.
Patricia Russo, who said her Grove Road home suffered roof leaks, said returning from the evacuation was eerie.
"There was water everywhere," she said.
With Robert Lewis