After the superstorm finished whipping Lindenhurst, National Guard Humvee teams drove through streets where the Great South Bay had rushed into backyards, slithered into children's bedrooms, and devastated at least 100 houses.
Firefighters made more than 100 rescues Monday night in what Lindenhurst Village Clerk-Treasurer Shawn Cullinane called "the worst storm we've ever seen."
Nearly 8 feet of water filled the streets Monday, officials said. Four homes burned.
"Tell them to send help," said Marianne Lewis, 73, who swam to the upper floor of her South Bay Street home to escape rising waters.
Lewis was one of several people stranded on the upper floors of their homes.
Many of the 800 to 1,000 homes south of Montauk Highway were flooded, but it was too soon to assess damage.
All that remained of Michael Chaffin's just-completed waterfront home on Bayview Avenue West was the foundation.
"It's gone," said Chaffin, 46. "I mean, it's really gone. The bay just took it."
Chaffin has no flood insurance. He wasn't required to buy it because he paid cash for the house.
Boats stored on dry land floated in yards, and cars were underwater. Dozens of trees were down.
Victor DiFrisco and his wife, Debra, had fled to the second floor with their 4-month-old baby girl and their 19-month-old son to escape stormwater.
"You don't know what's going to happen or where that water's going," said Debra DiFrisco, crying.
Jim and Denise Dalton did not evacuate their home on a hill just five houses from the bay. "We didn't think it was going to happen," said Denise Dalton, 38.
But water rose to the main floor, and the National Guard had to rescue the Daltons, their three children and a friend.
Diesel fuel spilled into floodwater, streaking it purple and green. Officials urged people not to light matches or smoke.
An overwhelming smell of oil filled Orchard Street where residents said oil burners had burst from the surge of water.
Benjamin Lopez, 47, and his daughter, Natalie, 12, rescued a neighbor's dog but couldn't save their own home.
"My home was completely destroyed," Benjamin Lopez said.
And Tim Landry, 49, a carpenter who lives just off South Wellwood Avenue, was paddling a yellow canoe to get to his house.
"This home has been in my family since 1946 and now it's ruined," Landry said.
Kelly Stanzoni, 3, cried when she learned about the dolls and stuffed animals that floated out of her bedroom in a house on South Bay Street.
Kelly's mother, Celia, 42, said, "I wish my daughter didn't have to experience this."