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Expressway: Sandy turned trees into objects of terror

Workers from the Smithtown Highway Department remove trees

Workers from the Smithtown Highway Department remove trees that fell across Lawrence Avenue during superstorm Sandy. The trees also brought down power lines. (Oct. 31, 2012) Photo Credit: John Paraskevas

I have always considered living on the North Shore, with its proximity to Manhattan and the variety of activities offered on Long Island, a blessing.

Yet the North Shore's plentiful tall trees have always worried me. I love them, but during a storm, these trees -- which provide natural beauty, shade and benefits to the environment -- can turn deadly. I've been told that the tall pole pines have shallow roots, and so I have always been a little nervous about them. There are quite a few near our house in Manhasset and on neighboring properties.

During superstorm Sandy on Oct. 29, my husband and I stayed at home, though I was reluctant to do so. Those trees, I thought to myself, had better stay put. As a person of deep faith, I prayed and hoped for the best. What else could I do? The storm warnings were getting more and more alarming.

By 9 p.m., the electrical power had already been out for many hours. That was no surprise; it happens in our town during less severe storms. My husband was upstairs listening to his transistor radio, and I sat at the dining room table downstairs with one of my own.

The reports were surreal. The Brooklyn Battery Tunnel was flooding, the storm surge was higher than expected, and hospitals were being evacuated. The drama was unfolding in real time. Reports were frightening and apocalyptic. I was trying to make sense of what was happening around me. I was also texting, making sure loved ones on the Island, in Brooklyn and in lower Manhattan were all right.

Suddenly one of my worst fears was realized. A tall pine on my neighbor's property crashed down on our house. I yelled to awaken my husband, who had fallen asleep.

With flashlights, we went from room to room to examine walls, windows and ceilings from the inside. With high gusts buffeting the house, we were afraid to venture outside.

In the third-floor attic, we found that a large pole pine had fallen across the garage and onto the house. It had punched two uneven holes in the roof.

Later that night, mentally exhausted, I somehow fell asleep -- with a large tree on our roof. In the morning, neighbors came by to check on us, and we were fine.

A few days later the tree was removed, but the roof and the attic still have to be repaired. The holes are temporarily covered with a tarp. Unfortunately, all of the roofers are busy. During the 13 days we were without heat or electricity, it was cold inside. However, others in our area have suffered so much more, and that has helped me keep our problems in perspective.

There were many lessons to be learned from the storm. We have so little control over the elements and natural disasters, but resilience, hopefulness and prayer help people cope in difficult times.

Reader Nancy Azzaro lives in Manhasset. She blogs at