Long Island resembled a debris-strewn war zone Tuesday as National Guard troops joined local authorities in searches for residents in flooded areas after Frankenstom Sandy left unprecedented damage in its wake across the Northeast.
Roughly 90 percent of Long Island Power Authority customers were without power — 942,000 as of noon Tuesday — three lives were lost in Nassau and Suffolk counties and at least 15 homes were reportedly washed out to sea on Fire Island.
Nassau health officials warned Long Beach and Water Mill residents that the tap water is unsafe for any use, even when boiled. New York City Subway tunnels were flooded for the first time in its 100-year history.
“We expected an unprecedented storm…and that’s what we got,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg told reporters, adding that 10 people died in the five boroughs and that number is expected to rise. The U.S. death toll was 33 as of noon with 17 in New York State. The Associated Press reported up to 100 homes were destroyed by fire in Breezy Point on the Far Rockaway peninsula.
“We have been…crippled with lost of homes to fires and flooding,” Len Torres, co-chair of the Long Beach city council, told the Press in a text message. “Currently our communications are shot.”
Two of the deaths on LI were in Suffolk County. John Miller, 39, was killed by a falling tree as he tried to flee his Lloyd Harbor home with his wife at 7:25 p.m. Monday and 21-year-old Vishwaja Muppa of New Jersey died when the SUV she was riding in collided with a Suffolk police vehicle in Port Jefferson Station at 1:30 a.m. Tuesday.
In Nassau, 84-year-old Safar Shafinoori, of Roslyn, was struck and killed Monday night by a falling tree while he was moving his car, AP reported.
The only bridges off LI reopened as of noon Tuesday were the lower East River crossings–the Williamsburg, Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Mass transit, airports, schools and most government offices remained closed while rescue efforts continued and the clean-up began. President Barack Obama declared a major disaster in NYC and on LI.
“Long Island really took the brunt of the burdern,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, noting there were 156 National Guard rescue missions statewide. “This is not going to be a short-term situation.”
JFK airport and the New York Stock Exchange may reopen Wednesday. It is not clear when the MTA can restore Long Island Rail Road service. The LIRR had to evacuate the West Side Yard in Manhattan due to flooding, according to the MTA. A 40-foot boat was washed onto Metro North tracks.
Cuomo called on the state Public Service Commission to monitor LIPA’s recovery efforts, citing what he called a poor track record. Half of the 1.1 million homes and businesses LIPA serves were without power after Tropical Storm Irene last August, some for more than a week.
“So many states were affected in this crisis were seeking utility workers from as far away as Texas and California,” Cuomo added.
Islip Town Supervisor Tom Croci told FiOs1 News Long Island that there was “significant” flooding on FI and the South Shore of LI the morning after the monster storm. Much of the barrier island was under water, same as Long Beach.
John and Barbara Stoia were sitting in the living room of their Deer Park home when they heard a “gentle thump” of a tree falling on their roof at 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, crushing a new fence and ripping off a gutter. “The house vibrated a little bit,” Barbara said.
“There is a new phenomenon of theses extreme weather patterns,” Cuomo told CBS News NY. “We have to anticipate occurrances like this in the future… It’s a new reality when it comes to weather conditions. We have to learn from this.”
The rare hurricane-nor’easter hybrid hit Atlantic City at 8 p.m. Monday, bringing record 13-foot storm surges in some areas. The strongest gust in the tri-state region was recorded at 96 mph in Eaton’s Neck. Property damage costs have yet to be calculated, but Sandy is widely believed to be the Storm of the Century rivaling the 1938 Long Island Express.
-With Rashed Mian