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Tropical Storm Elsa moves out, leaving outages, localized flooding

Newsday meteorologist Bill Korbel takes a look back at how Tropical Storm Elsa affected Long Island with Newsday reporter Faith Jessie. Credit: Newsday

This story was reported by John Asbury, Robert Brodsky, Alfonso Castillo, Matthew Chayes, Lisa L. Colangelo, Joan Gralla, Mark Harrington, James T. Madore, J.P. Salamanca and Olivia Winslow. It was written by Chayes and Gralla.

Elsa was no Isaias.

Tropical Storm Elsa's torrential rains and strong winds swept over Long Island and departed right on schedule, by midday Friday, though there's a chance of showers continuing through Saturday afternoon and evening, according to the National Weather Service forecast.

Elsa was the worst storm to hit Long Island so far this summer, flooding streets, toppling trees and taking down power lines across the Island. But spokespeople for Nassau and Suffolk county police forces said they knew of no reported injuries connected to the storm.

"It pretty much went as forecast," said weather service meteorologist James Tomasini, except that rainfall ended up being heavier farther east than forecast.

Saturday is expected to be partly sunny, with highs below normal across western Nassau, in the low 80s, and in the upper 70s in Suffolk, he said.

The damage was easy to see: fender-benders, suspended service on the Long Island Rail Road's Oyster Bay branch, delays and waist-high floods on some New York City subways, and about 650 PSEG Long Island customers reported without power as of 7:39 p.m.

In all, PSEG said, nearly 27,000 customers had lost power as a result of the storm. That's a fraction of the utility's nearly 400,000 customers whose electricity went out during Tropical Storm Isaias last August.

Rainfall totals reached 3.9 inches in Matinecock in Nassau County, and 4.53 inches in Greenlawn in Suffolk County, per the National Weather Service.

"We fared pretty well on this end of the storm," Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said at an afternoon briefing in Hicksville. "It may not have been as dramatic as predicted."

By evening, Tomasini said, satellite imagery showed Elsa's rains had moved over the Massachusetts coast, heading northeast.

Unlike the slow-moving Isaias, forecasters said this storm, which struck Florida on Thursday, moved fairly swiftly, around 31 mph.

Advisories against bathing at 63 Suffolk and 17 Nassau beaches were issued due to heavy rainfall. In addition, Philip Healey Beach in Massapequa was closed until further notice due to elevated bacterial levels, Nassau health officials said.

The NWS warned that dangerous rip currents will arise at ocean beaches into Saturday.

Surfing but no swimming was allowed at Long Island state parks, said George Gorman, regional director of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

Power outages, which had declined after Thursday's storms, rebounded on Friday, then fell again throughout the late morning and early afternoon. At the current pace, all outages were expected to be restored by day’s end, PSEG Long Island spokeswoman Ashley Chauvin said. Crews, including 1,000 called from off-Island, continued to work to restore power.

In New York City, images and video shared on social media by commuters showed heavy flooding at some subway stations, with some passengers wading waist-deep in dirty water.

Localized flooding

In Nassau, 17 county roads had some flooding, as did the Meadowbrook State Parkway in Seaford, Sunrise Highway in Massapequa, and on Long Beach Road in Island Park.

High tide, around 9 a.m. Friday, had worsened flooding in communities including Freeport and Bayville, according to Curran.

Nassau police received 571 storm-related calls, mostly including vehicles stuck in floodwaters in Massapequa, Levittown, North Merrick, East Meadow and Wantagh. By 8:30 a.m., police had responded to 38 collisions.

In Suffolk, flooding was not as severe as it has been with previous storms, and no county roads were closed at midday, though the morning high tide did cause some problems in the usual places, according to County Executive Steve Bellone's office.

While there were no major issues with widespread flooding, low-lying areas were seeing some localized flooding through the high tide cycle along the South Shore, according to Bellone's office.

Parts of Lindenhurst south of Montauk Highway were flooded, forcing drivers to navigate through deep water at certain intersections. The storm temporarily transformed the corner of Cedar Place and Shore Road into a pond. A pair of orange traffic cones marked deep flooding nearby on South Bay Street and Shore Road.

While Islip's MacArthur Airport had no delays, county officials advised travelers to check with their carriers ahead of time.

'Doing fine' in Long Beach

In Long Beach, the worst of Elsa had passed by as of 8:30 Friday morning.

"Generally, we’re doing fine," said John McNally, the city’s public relations director. "The streets are puddling, not flooding."

"Nothing major happened overnight," McNally said. "We’ve had negligible beach erosion. The best we can tell, we made out, generally speaking, OK."

Flooding in the Nautical Mile area of Freeport was intense on Guy Lombardo Avenue at John J. Randall Park early Friday morning. The water appeared to rise about 3 inches above the tires of parked cars — enough to ward off the few drivers from venturing down Cedar Street, where the flooding was heaviest.

Mike Sliba of Miller Avenue, just a few blocks from the Nautical Mile, was assessing the situation outside his home as the heavy rain continued. Barefoot and clad only in shorts, he said he had discovered that his sump pump was clogged and that there was some flooding in the playroom of his home, which is on the lower level.

But overall, Sliba said he wasn’t expecting anything like the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy, when he said stormwater brought a stranger’s boat out of the canal and crashing into his garage.

"I’m not concerned," he said.

In Huntington and Northport, local streets flooded and cars sent up waves along major thoroughfares like Jericho Turnpike and Route 110.

Huntington Town officials said there was rain-driven flooding in beach parking lots but no damage or erosion. Bus lines were running on schedule or with minor delays from flooding, including a three-block section of West Pulaski Road that was flooded near Railroad Street.

Sanitation workers continued their trash pickup routes Friday morning, tossing cans while getting soaked on the back of trucks. Some neighborhood streets looked impassable due to large pools of water rippling with heavy rain.

The storm closed several businesses on Route 110, including a usually bustling bagel shop, due to a flooded parking lot.

Looking ahead, the odds of more downpours on Sunday and Monday are at 40%, but once again, they may hold off until the afternoon, the weather service said.

Daytime temperatures from Saturday to Thursday should hover in the high 70s to low 80s.

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