The Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy on Long Island

Kevin Schultz

It was weird turning on the television last night for the first time in days (I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I could) and seeing CBS news anchors asking for viewers to donate to the Red Cross to “help your neighbors.” Usually, the request is to help someone in a far off state or country. There’s usually some sense of removal whether that is due to a long physical distance between you and the disaster or the simple removal that comes from seeing something on a screen. But distance and TV screens don’t matter when the call is to help your ‘neighbors’, a slick way of getting around the fact that you could, quite literally, be donating right back to yourself. When you see it through that lens, it’s kind of stunning.

Going back to Sunday, I had a whole lot of things in the hopper ready to be posted about the Islanders and the NHL. Between the move to the Barclays and the concert gone bad at the Coliseum on Saturday night the dry, monotonous, lull of the lockout got a lot more interesting last week. You can bet I was ready to write about it. And I still am, but it’s not quite the time yet. The biggest story in the history of the New York Islanders is not quite so important anymore. Not after the biggest storm in the history of the Island.

More than 600,000 homes — not people, homes — on Long Island still don’t have power four days after the storm. There’s no gasoline and when there is, the station is sold out in hours. It’s impossible to drive anywhere and not have to turn around because there’s a downed tree blocking the road, sometimes tangled in a power line with a transformer. The majority of traffic lights still aren’t working, but people are hospitable enough to stop and go as if they are. The stereotypical ‘New York drivers’ have taken a holiday.

If you’re still without power, it’s awful. There’s no doubt about that. But even if that’s the case, you might be counting your blessings that a tree didn’t fall on your house, a boat didn’t land in your bedroom, or worse.

For those of you not living in the region, yes, the pictures you’re seeing of Long Beach Island in Jersey, Breezy Point in Queens, and downtown NYC are real, extremely saddening and very scary. The news media automatically zooms into the hardest hit places and that’s great, because it will prompt you, the government, and everyone else to help the people hit the hardest in whatever way that they can.

What they’re not showing you on the news is the damage done to literally every neighborhood on Long Island. Nearly every block on every street has massive trees down. The vast majority of the small, younger trees made it through the storm. But every neighborhood has a few of those 50 or 100 year old trees and the vast majority of those trees are now lying on houses, in streets, or leaning precariously on power lines.

A 50-ft sycamore came down on top of a house on my girlfriend’s block. The neighbors said the boy living in the upstairs bedroom where the tree hit had gone downstairs minutes before. The house still stands but there’s almost nothing left of the caved in top floor.

In another part of her neighborhood, there are two sycamores entangled with each other lying across a street blocking one exit to the neighborhood (pictured, right). To make it extra tricky, the trees were able to yank down the power lines across the street, but not quite all the way. At the other exit to the neighborhood, there’s another lying across the street that cars are cautiously navigating around (pictured, below). Yesterday, probably after being sick of looking at it for two days, a group of men from the neighborhood got some chain saws and went at the trees in the first picture. I’m not sure how far they got as it was an awfully big task without professional equipment.

There’s been no help in this neighborhood from LIPA, FEMA or anyone else. Not because of neglect but because 90% of Long Island was without power after the storm on Monday night. By those statistics, it’s easy to tell that this neighborhood is only one of many across Long Island with these problems. The resources that are here are stretched so thin that large military transports are flying in more crews and equipment to help clean up the mess of fallen trees and more.

There are a lot of trees on Long Island and it’s as if someone picked out all the oldest, biggest ones and tipped them over. Some are blocking roads while others have take up residence in houses or on power lines. A select few trees fell across yards, thankfully missing everything except grass.

If you’re on the coast, it’s much worse. Neighborhoods are flooded with water, beached boats and, well, large swaths of beach. Small communities with only small exits like Bayville and Asharoken were completely cut off during the storm and flooded.

I’m not asking you to donate anything to me; my family and I are thankfully alright. The cars are full of gas — we haven’t really gone anywhere all week — and we’ve got food to last a little while. But there’s a lot of people here who need help. Maybe it’s as simple as a warm shower, maybe it’s as complex as house that needs to be rebuilt. But it’s not good here. And it isn’t good for a lot of people.

Long Island will make it, we always do. But it’s going to be a very long road. If you can read this blog post, you’re most likely in a warm, internet filled home. There are more than half a million homes on Long Island that are not warm, not internet filled and may not be for at least another week — maybe more — with the weather taking colder dip in the coming days. It’s the same in New Jersey, New York City and other places. If you can reach out to someone personally to offer a hand, do it. I don’t like telling you what to do with your money, but if you can’t reach out personally and can spare some money for the Red Cross’ relief effort that will help those hardest hit, it’s probably a good idea.

After I got power back and took a look at Twitter, the latest news on the lockout seemed infinitely more hollow than it had before (and it was pretty damned hollow before). The NHL’s story ‘encouraging support’ for donations is shallow at best and feels like jamming a stick in the eye of this region. The NHL and the NHLPA, two organizations fighting over how much of fan’s money they want — some of the very people harmed in this storm — have yet to decide to give even a dollar of it to hurricane relief. Kudos to the Sound Tigers doing what they can and offering free admission to this weekend’s games, a healthy distraction from the destruction.

So please do what the NHL won’t and help, if you can. Here’s a good list of reputable agencies that you can reach out to.

Right now, hockey just doesn’t matter much. We’ll be back to regular coverage soon, but not today.