It’s been five years since Long Island was ravaged by Super Storm Sandy. Although we’ve been hit by our share of hurricanes and blizzards in the past, very few storms have been assigned the moniker of “catastrophic.”
Many areas are prone to losing power during storms—after all, we do live on an island—but if the power is out for days, that would be unusual. Sandy changed all of that.
Numerous communities were devastated by the storm surge and although people were inclined to rebuild, there was a lot of trepidation this time around. For most, rebuilding was their only option. Not many people had the option of letting their home go and moving somewhere else. And although New York State promised to help everyone rebuild, many have still not gotten a dime.
If you didn’t experience it personally, you’ve certainly heard or read stories about people who were without power for weeks. Families lost everything, including priceless memories, as the waters breached their foundations and washed it all away. There were numerous, heartbreaking tales and images of people dragging furniture and possessions to the curb in the aftermath of the storm, now facing the unthinkable rebuilding process. We’ve seen this happen in other places and around the world, but here on Long Island? Where do you even start?
While the storm was raging that night, I ventured out to my car to listen to the radio and try to make sense of what was happening. We live just north of the LIRR tracks in Massapequa, so flooding was not a concern. We certainly had our share of wind damage and downed trees, losing fences and car ports that flew into neighbor’s yards like cheap umbrellas. But we had no idea what was going on just a mile or so away, where the shoreline could no longer hold back the water.
Our friends, Sheila and Dean, had moved to Massapequa earlier in the year, settling into a beautiful little house at the end of East Shore Drive, just south of Peninsula golf course. With a second-floor bedroom that overlooked the bay and the sunrise every morning, the house was perfect for the newly engaged couple. Both had grown children and were to be married that November, right after Thanksgiving. My wife met Sheila while waking our Labrador Louie, and together with their lab Jake had developed a human and canine friendship that still exists today.
We all heard the dire warnings as the storm was making landfall up the Florida coast, which resulted in all of us running out for milk and bread. There was now a really good chance of Long Island getting smacked, but it’s just a storm, right? Batten down the hatches, pick up some batteries and plan to work from home tomorrow.
During the afternoon, the news reports became more and more alarming. The rain and wind were intensifying, but when we heard the south shore of Nassau and Suffolk County were being evacuated, this started to get real. We offered our home as shelter for our friends who lived on the water, but like most Long Islanders, they were going to ride it out. They assured us that if things got bad, they were out of there.
While the storm raged outside their home, the water level increased about a foot or so over the bulkhead and was beginning to enter the house through Jake’s doggie door in the washroom. Still, nothing to panic about, but there was going to be a lot of cleanup tomorrow, no doubt. They were expecting some flooding and, quite frankly, there wasn’t much they could do about it.
They headed upstairs to their bedroom and were watching The Godfather when the wind really began to howl. Looking out the huge picture window, they could only marvel at the power of mother nature, wishing they were seeing it on the National Geographic channel instead of out their window. In place of the normal, calm of the bay down at Unqua Point, they observed waves pushing the water into the canal and into their yard, lapping up against their back door.
That’s when they noticed their neighbor’s 25-foot boat being blown off its mooring.
Next week: the conclusion of “A Sandy Story.”