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Schaffer: 'Heartbreaking' Scenes South of Montauk

Town supervisor says FEMA is gearing up to help with restoration efforts in the area.

Nearly 300 people in the Lindenhurst area had to be rescued from their homes when Hurricane Sandy sent waves pouring into the streets, Babylon Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer told Patch Tuesday night after a day of viewing the devastation in the Village. 

"It was heartbreaking," Schaffer said of what he witnessed in the areas south of Montauk Highway. "People crying, hugging...a lot of them just had stunned looks on their faces." 

From Babylon to Amityville, the major intersections heading south from Montauk Highway were blocked off as 20 uniformed detectives, along with other officers, and 10 Humvees manned by National Guard members locked down one of the worst hit areas from the storm. 

Officials have already said it's possible that up to 70 percent of the homes south of Montauk Highway in Lindenhurst will be uninhabitable. Schaffer said he saw water lines on homes that were 6-7 feet high on Tuesday. 

"I never saw anything like this in my lifetime with the amount of water that just came rushing in," he said. 

Residents were able to get past police barricades and into their homes to retrieve belongings during low tide Tuesday afternoon, Schaffer said. They were not allowed to stay, though, as officials didn't want to chance needing to make more rescues during high tide, the supervisor said. 

There was still about 2-and-a-half feet of water in the Chateau Le Mer area earlier Tuesday and high tide Tuesday night brought the water back up to about 4-feet at the very southern end of the Village, Schaffer said. 

That's still a far cry from Monday night, when at the height of the storm, the tides reached Lane Street and breached Montauk Highway at several points in Lindenhurst, Copiague and Babylon. 

While flooding ravaged many nearby towns, Schaffer said he believed Lindenhurst got much of the media attention--stories have appeared in papers across the country and a CNN crew was in Lindenhurst--because of the hundreds of rescues that had to be made. 

"We are all a little frustrated because the warnings were out there," Schaffer said of those who refused to leave their homes.

Many people had to be rescued by using the bucket on Town of Babylon payloaders, Schaffer said, as the National Guard Humvees could only go into 3-4 foot deep water. 

Schaffer said the evacuation order, announced via phone calls, reverse 911 calls and through the media, came on Sunday morning, which gave residents plenty of time to pack up their things and head for safer ground before the storm hit. 

"Anybody who was paying attention to anything should have taken notice of the warning," Schaffer said ."Unfortunately there were a lot of people put in harm's way because of that." 

Schaffer said that despite the extensive property damage in the area, with no reported serious injuries or fatalities, "it really, really could have been a lot, but we are grateful that it wasn't."

The roadblocks down to the shore may be lifted Wednesday, but the recovery is just beginning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] is already gearing up to be a presence in the area, Schaffer said, with more details to come regarding the assistance available to residents. 

It will take a long time to recover from Sandy, but Schaffer said he believed the Village and the entire Town of Babylon, a group of people he called "a resilient bunch," will bounce back. 

"We are going to stand by all the residents and work with them to get their lives back together," Schaffer said, "and make this the great place it has always been."

eric November 01, 2012 at 01:06 AM
did chateau la mer burn down?
judy starcke November 02, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Lived right there 40 years ago.

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