Limited ferry service to Fire Island will reopen to the public Monday, three weeks after Superstorm Sandy, while emergency repairs are still underway on homes, businesses and the resort community’s prized beaches.
Year-round residents were allowed back first Nov. 10 followed by all other property owners starting Wednesday. Despite feverish cleanup efforts along the 32-mile-long island, signs of destruction remained—flattened dunes, splintered docks and battered homes left perilously vulnerable to the Atlantic Ocean.
“There’s no reason we can’t be 100 percent by next summer,” said Michael Horton, chief of the Ocean Bay Park Fire Department. His optimism was widely shared in the hamlet that ranks among the hardest hit on FI with at least a dozen homes left uninhabitable.
Ferries from Sayville to the relatively unscathed east end communities of Cherry Grove and Fire Island Pines are running along with weekend boat service from Patchogue to Davis Park, where more than a half dozen houses were washed away.
Ferries from Bay Shore to west end communities initially required riders to show a tax or LIPA bill before getting aboard, but those requirements were left unenforced Friday through the weekend. Ferries are also running Sunday, a reversal of previously cancelled plans.
The Long Island Power Authority is continuing the restore electricity to FI, but many structures require electrical repairs before they can be repowered. The water has only been deemed safe in the villages of Ocean Beach and Saltaire. The OB sewer system is also up and running, but septic tanks elsewhere have been damaged.
The island breached in two places on the east end—at Smith Point and in the wilderness area—although there are only plans at the moment to fill the Smith Point breach and another one on the Hamptons barrier island just east of FI.
The Atlantique Beach marina, an Islip town-run park, was badly damaged and remains closed to the public along with Robert Moses State Park on FI’s western tip. Smith Point County park in Shirley on FI’s eastern end opened last week.
Crews have been clearing sand—up to four feet of it in some places—from sidewalks and hauling it back to the beach, where it’s being used to build temporary berms in place of the leveled dunes.
Saltaire Village Mayor Robert Cox said the wave of sand that was washed from Sandy’s storm surge into the streets looked like “a lava flow.”