LONG BEACH, New York (Reuters) - Parts of Long Beach, a seaside community on the southern shore of Long Island, were pitch black as darkness fell on Saturday night. The only light in entire neighborhoods emanated from the trucks of utility workers fixing power lines nearly two weeks after Superstorm Sandy devastated the region.
Residents of Long Beach, a city of about 33,000 on Long Island’s southern barrier islands, share their fate with hundreds of thousands of people in devastated coastal communities facing a 13th night without power.
For many, that meant no hot water or heat in freezing nighttime temperatures.
Luis Mendez, 49, who works in a laundry in Long Beach, leaned against a car talking with a friend, Alison Cartanega, whose three children played in near-total darkness nearby.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “I saw a LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) guy fixing a line down the street today, and I went to ask him when the power was coming back on. He said December.”
Local authorities say power has been restored to 80 percent of Long Beach. Water has been declared safe to drink but residents are being told to flush out their faucets for 10 to 15 minutes before drinking. The city’s website instructs residents not to flush their toilets because the sewage plant is without power.
LIPA says it will restore power to 99 percent of its customers by Tuesday.
On Saturday afternoon, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo helped the National Guard unload truckloads of donated food, water, cleaning supplies and piles of clothes.
At a supermarket parking lot late on Saturday afternoon, hundreds of weary Long Beach residents met the incoming supply trucks.
New York National Guard members distributed thousands of MREs (meals ready to eat), cases of bottled water and six trucks worth of cleaning supplies donated by Home Depot, said Adam Amit, 24, a lieutenant with the NY National Guard’s 69th Infantry Regiment.
But after the coming and going of dignitaries, press, and volunteers that has been repeated hundreds of times around the region, residents are again left to make do with the little they have.
“Out here, time doesn’t mean anything anymore,” said Miles Rose, 58, an information technology consultant from Long Beach. “You live by the sun, and when it goes down, the day is over and you go to bed. That’s how we live now.”
Rose has created a webpage on his computer, which he powers up with a car battery, using a solar cell and an inverter to switch the DC car battery to AC.
The site, www.freecycleplus.com/longbeach, allows neighbors to post what they need and those who wish to donate to post what they can offer.
The site also lists places where residents can get hot food and water, charge their cell phones at ‘charging tables’ set up by the city, and receive donated clothing.
Along Broadway, the road that runs along Long Beach’s southern coast, the lashing storm stripped 200,000 cubic yards of sand from the beach and dumped it inland, said EJ Lamay, foreman of Lamay and Sons.
Lamay’s Huntington, Long Island-based construction company was subcontracted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to clean up what Lamay says was as much as 3 feet (1 meter) of beach sand pushed into streets and backyards along Broadway.
Lamay said it took 91 men using 15 payloaders to move the sand from the streets back to the beach, where it is piled 10 stories high in a fenced-off area on Broadway. Lamay’s crews worked around the clock for a week, then cut back to 12-hour shifts.
The crew huddled together beside the colossal pile of sand Saturday night, planning the final stages of cleanup. Lamay, a stocky construction worker with salt-and-pepper hair, barked orders to his employees.
“Day at the beach,” he said when asked what it was like to move so much sand. The construction team burst into laughter. “Day at the beach,” Lamay repeated. “No problem.”
Bob Masucci, 55, a construction worker who lives in a six-story apartment building along Broadway, said about half of his neighbors stayed put during the storm.
“It was totally insane,” he said. “We saw whitecaps in the street!”
Reporting By Chris Francescani. Writing by Edward Krudy; Editing by Xavier Briand