|photocourtesy of cherrygroveguys.com
Fire Islanders are, of course, very concerned about the impact of the recent severe storm—downgraded from hurricane—Sandy on our beloved barrier reef. Reports came in, on October 31 and November 1, from the volunteer Cherry Grove Fire Department (CGFD) and from the Fire Island Association (FIA) and Fire Island National Seashore (FINS) about the impact of Sandy and are reprinted here.
From Craig L. Williams, CGFD:
I did have a brief phone conversation with one of our County Fire Coordinators who was on the beach Wednesday extensively. He relayed some of the major damage on the island and then the conversation turned to Cherry Grove. He commented on how Cherry Grove had the least damage of any community on Fire Island. I know we have one telephone pole down and major damage and flooding on the bay / Bayview [Walk]. All houses along the bay were flooded and at times parts of Bayview were one to two feet under water. But from what he had observed, our dunes did exactly what those dedicated individuals from the [Cherry Grove] Dunes Fund worked so hard over the last 30 some years were supposed to do. The dunes protected our homes and town from major damage. While the dunes are mostly gone, other communities had severe breaches and numerous over washes where the ocean wreaked havoc on the other towns. I would like to extend a thank you to the Dunes Fund and a special thank you to the Oakleys [Cherry Grove contractors] and many others for their hard work each year fertilizing the dunes, putting up the snow fence, etc. Their efforts really shined during Sandy and very literally made our town come thru the storm with minimal major damage when compared to our sister communities. Yes, we took damage but please keep in your mind that it could have been very much worse without our dunes. Almost every other community lost homes, while we did not. The rebuilding process will be long as we rebuild our dunes and get them prepared to meet the next big hurricane in 2084:).
From Suzy Goldhirsch, President, FIA & Chris Soller, Superintendent, FINS, forwarded by Gary Sacks, cherrygroveguys.com:
FIA and FINS have prepared the following storm update for the FIA Board and the members of your respective communities. Once again, please be advised that the situation on the Island is evolving, and the information we provide is always subject to change.
Access to the Island: We would like to once again emphasize the importance of advising your residents that conditions on the Island are not safe for homeowners to return. There is no power throughout the entire island, and availability of water is also compromised in many areas. There are telephone and electric wires down, and transformers on the ground. Every street is covered in 2’ to 4' of sand and piles of debris. There is standing water that may be contaminated with sewage, and also very dangerous ‘sink holes’ filled with water. There are no emergency services if someone should get hurt out there, or need medical attention of any kind.
To review the access restrictions:
Strictly controlled by County and State officials. There are check points on the bridge limiting access to Field #5 for authorized individuals only (including those with expertise and skill sets required for clean-up: heavy machine operation, tree removal, LIPA [Long Island Power Authority] personnel, Suffolk County Water, etc).
All three ferry companies [Sayville Ferry Service, Fire Island Ferries out of Bayshore, and Davis Park Ferry Service out of Patchogue] will not run until (1) they get their terminals and equipment back in working order, and (2) they receive the OK from the County to transport passengers.
It is also not safe for private boats to come to the Island until further notice.
We understand that it is frustrating for residents to be prevented from coming out to check their property, but they would be endangering themselves and others by trying to get to their house at this time. So please encourage your homeowners to be patient and allow the assessment teams to make sure the conditions are safe enough for ‘re-population’ of the Island.
In the meantime, most communities have developed informal but very effective communication networks to get details of local conditions by way of pictures and verbal reports from community-spirited individuals who are currently out on the Island.
Please be assured that as soon as we have specific information about general public access, we will circulate it immediately!
Damage Assessment and Priorities:
Four main objectives were established as priorities today by the Incident Command team:
Clearing walks for vehicle access: It is absolutely essential that our communities have the benefit of fire and EMS protection as the recovery effort goes forward. To that end, efforts began today to remove sand from primary and secondary emergency vehicle routes. Fallen trees are also being cut away, debris cleared, and sink holes identified and filled.
Re-establishing the water systems is critically important for fire fighting. Our volunteers are working with Suffolk County Water to check wells and pumps, make sure that intra-community connections are functioning, dig out fire hydrants, and maintain adequate fuels supplies for the generators that are running the well pumps.
Power supply: LIPA has begun the task of assessing the damage to the electric grid, a challenge that requires checking all utility poles, overhead and underground cables, and transformers. Preliminary indications are that the overhead wires fared somewhat better than the underground ones.
Health and Safety: The local Fire Departments have been charged with assessing general infrastructure damage in each community. Their job is to assure that conditions in their districts are safe enough to allow their residents to return.
IMPORTANT: Despite rumors that your residents may have heard, the Park Service (FINS) is NOT planning to condemn any damaged property, nor are there any plans to raze or remove any damaged structures.
Voting: Fire Island polling locations will obviously not be available on Election Day. Suffolk County Board of Elections advises that they will have information available tomorrow on when and where and how Fire Island voters will be able to cast their ballots. Please feel free to call them directly after 2 p.m.at 631/852-4500. When they answer, press 1 then wait for the next message to begin and press 6 to be transferred to an operator.
Giving Thanks: On this, the second day after the storm, we join all Fire Islanders in offering our appreciation and gratitude for the dedication, expertise and commitment of our local first responders, Park Rangers, Suffolk County Police, and OEM [Office of Emergency Management] officials from the State, County and Towns who helped evacuate many residents who stayed on the Island during the storm, and who now are leading the effort to help the Island get back up and running. The restoration process will be a long and challenging one, but the attitude prevalent on the Island today is summed up in Mario Possilico’s [Saltaire, FI, Village Administrator and CEO of construction company Possilico, Inc.] message to Saltaire residents: “This was a blow, but not a knock-out punch!”
Suzy Goldhirsch, President, FIA
Chris Soller, Superintendent, FINS
The following came from Michael Romanelli, President of the Cherry Grove Property Owners Association and volunteer with CGFD:
Cherry Grove Report-November 3, 2012
I went to the island on Saturday with Chief Jill Navarra, Assistant Chief Laura Ann Giusto and Firefighters Diana DiPrima, Arthur Cohen and Tim Webster. Two members of the Pines Fire Department went with us then got a lift from the Police to their community. Firefighter Robert Conlon had gone over earlier with the Oakleys who were also there along with Firefighter Mark Atten. We each checked out a section of the Grove so the Chief will have a more complete report. Here's what I have.
First of all the Executive Order is being enforced by the Police. They evicted contractors in the Pines who were not Level One CD.
We got clearance from Jay Demeussy, the East End Fire Coordinator to go over, and clearance for Ken Stein to run a boat. Judging from the high water mark, the ferry terminal might have had at least three feet of water in their offices. We need to thank Ken for running a boat in the midst of their cleanup.
Our firehouse was not flooded. The generator works fine, although it is not being left on continuously as we will run out of fuel. It is just being turned on periodically when needed. The phone service is off, most likely due to the flooding west of us.
The Oakleys had been busy clearing trees off the walks, and out of the power lines. The Grove power source comes in on the 4 KV lines that run along Lewis and as a pole has snapped at the corner of Lewis and Aeon this will be a problem for restoration of the electrical supply. LIPA and the OEM know about it We will have to have our alarm box and wires moved to the new pole when one is erected there. No timing on that.
One house, Lopez's, has an "unsafe to enter" marking on it. There is a tree across the entrance. Laura Ann has a photo of that.
The east end of Bayview walk had floated up then settled down badly. Besides tilting in different directions, the section between Gerard and Maryland is too unstable right now to run a vehicle on it. It moves when you just walk. Greene walk just south of Bayview has sunk so that there is now a 10" height difference between the old and new sections.
Aeon and Gerard are okay, but the Chief mentioned that Maryland and Sumner are problematic. Aeon of course has wires down on it.
Jay reported a 100 yard wide breach on the island in the Sailor's Haven area around the helicopter pad. The breach may have closed for now, but I have only one report on that.
The cut just to the west of the Grove had been filled in by Chief Robert "Buzz" Bragg of Point-O-Woods so although there was some water intrusion, it was not reported as a breach. Haven't seen it myself. Buzz had his house moved off its foundation during the storm.
On Saturday SCWA began restoration of water in the Grove. When we left the pressure was building up. It is not potable and is just for firefighting purposes. As there is no electric power we might have water only as long as the fuel SCWA uses to run its generator holds out. OEM is aware of this.
Until the executive order is lifted, and clearance is given for homeowners to return, you cannot get to Fire Island unless you have a Level One CD clearance. As we all know the dunes took a beating but held. Here are before and after pictures of the walk over the dunes on Aeon which will give you an idea of the storm surge. The after shot is taken further back from the beach than the before shot.
There is a report of a Northeaster coming possibly on Wednesday although as of now the path is not certain. If bad it could complicate the reoccupation of the island but there is an concerted effort to get homeowners back to inspect their properties as soon as it is safe to do so. I spoke to Tommy Esposito of Tony's Barge who will get a dumpster on our dock for garbage as soon as he is allowed to do so. I told him there is likely to be a lot of food spoilage from refrigerators from those who hadn't closed their houses before the storm.
Although the Grove fared fairly well, much of Fire Island did not. In addition to houses that were lost, the officials are condemning houses in some communities. Was told that 27 houses in Ocean Beach. were condemned.