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Rain takes toll on crops, workers, schedules

Headlights on vehicles along the eastbound Sunrise Highway

Headlights on vehicles along the eastbound Sunrise Highway as rain falls lightly in Patchogue. (June. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: James Carbone

Thanks to the seemingly relentless rain, Long Island's strawberry crop is suffering, landscapers and other outdoor workers are struggling to do their jobs, and events are being rescheduled -- and rescheduled again.

Still, business was brisk Thursday at some hardware stores, for water pumps, gutter accoutrements and rain gear as residents sought to deal with the month's heavy rainfall.

While Long Island was spared the deluge forecast for Thursday, the .35 inches of rain recorded in Islip as of 9:30 p.m. added to the 6.72 inches that already fell in June, put the month on track to be the wettest June since 2003, which saw 10.8 inches of rain.

Up to a half-inch of rain was expected overnight, ending at noon. A flood advisory was in effect until 11 p.m. last night.

Events from school field days to charity fundraisers have been rescheduled -- such as yesterday's "Golf for Good" outing sponsored by the Hempstead-based health and human services agency EAC Network.

With some strawberries rotting in the fields, Joseph M. Gergela III, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau, said, "We need some sunshine."

As for other crops, just about anything planted at the lowest spots in a field will succumb to water that's collecting there, he said. Still, he said, "crops in general are going to survive . . . One of the beauties of farming on Long Island is that we have a long growing season," meaning farmers can make up for what's lost in the next planting.

At Trade Fair Hardware in Amityville, the store has "been selling a lot of water pumps, rain boots and rain suits," owner Valmore James said.

"We actually sold out of rain suits today and I had to put in a new order," James said Thursday. "A lot of construction guys and people who work outside have been coming and buying those up."

In a 10-day period, 200 water pumps were sold at Costello's Ace Hardware in Bellmore, said employee Jimmy DiNapoli, 69. On Thursday morning, the store also sold out of splash block stones -- flat, funnel-like devices that carry water away from a downspout, he said.

Frank Martocci, a co-owner of Abbey Rent-All, Hicksville, said his customers were concerned about water seepages in basements, so he's seen a need for fans and wet-dry vacuums.

Needless to say, the rain "messes" with landscapers' schedules," said Jason C. Merz, president and owner of Metamorphosis Landscape Design Ltd., Smithtown. It's not just the rain day that's lost, he said, since soggy ground conditions affect work on following days.

Things get complicated, too, he said, as so many jobs involve coordinating with others, such as sprinkler, lighting, swimming pool tradespeople -- whose own work schedules are affected. "It's a tangled web," he said. Still, he said, most of his clients understand. "They're living on the same island we are."

With Fausto Giovanny Pinto, Candice Norwood, Gary Dymski and William Murphy


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