Fire Island has been breached and a new inlet may have formed after Superstorm Sandy washed at least a dozen homes on the barrier island out to sea, severely damaged hundreds of others and swamped much of the summer resort.
Authorities rescued 34 people who ignored the mandatory evacuation order before the deadline Sunday. About 120 people were estimated to have weathered the storm. There were no reports of serious injuries.
“There’s no doubt that Fire Island really suffered a devastating impact,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, who noted that jaws dropped when he first showed experts aerial footage of the damage. “There have been breaches. Whether those convert to new inlets has yet to be determined.”
Chris Soller, superintendent of the Fire Island National Seashore, told The Associated Press that 80 percent of the remaining houses sustained some kind of damage.
It is not clear when the island will be reopened to residents, although some have already gone over despite orders to stay away, Bellone said.
The Long Island Power Authority, which pre-emptively cut electric to the island before Sandy struck, has more than 700,000 homes and businesses to restore power to besides FI. Drinking water there has been ruled not safe.
Chief FINS Ranger Lena Koschmann reported in a Facebook post Tuesday that there are three locations that appear to be breached, with water flowing freely from one side of the island to the other between Old Inlet and the Wilderness Visitor Center in Watch Hill.
“One in particular is wide and appears to be deep enough to potentially create a new inlet,” FINS said in the post.
Overwashes have wiped out much of the dunes. Boardwalks and beach staircases have also been washed away. The Burma Road, an unpaved main road through much of the mostly car-free island, was impassable after the storm.
Suffolk County police lost an SUV in FI flooding while rescuing 14 people west of Ocean Beach on Monday. Seventeen people were rescued Tuesday from Cherry Grove, along with 10 pets. Bellone said a family of three was rescued from an unspecified community Wednesday.