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Hurricane Sandy slams Great Neck

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012 1:20 pm | Updated: 1:20 pm, Mon Nov 5, 2012.

Hurricane Sandy’s driving rains and gale-force winds swept through Great Neck Monday night, damaging homes  and cutting off power across the peninsula.

The storm, which has killed 50 people in the United States, caused billions in damage and shut down public transport in the New York metropolitan area, turned roads throughout Great Neck into hazard zones.

Nassau County Police reported one local fatality after Roslyn resident Safar Shafinoori was killed by a falling tree branch. A Garden City Park resident was seriously injured when a commercial firework detonated in his hand; police report he believed the firework to be a candle.

Public safety crews worked throughout Tuesday removing trees from traffic lanes and cordoning off downed power lines, which lay across main throughfares including Lakeville and Middle Neck roads as well as side streets.

The scale of the damage, especially to Long Island’s power grid, was extremely heavy. More than 943,000 of the Long Island Power Authority’s customers were without electricity as of Tuesday - 85 percent of LIPA’s approximately 1.1 million clients.

“Long Island’s [electrical service] is probably the hardest hit,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

LIPA told Newsday on Wednesday that it will take at least 10 days to restore power.

Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano warned drivers to stay off the roads unless necessary and said the county’s main priority was to protect the lives of residents and restore critical infrastructure in a press conference Tuesday.

“This is certainly one of if not the worst effects of a storm that I have seen here on Long Island,” Mangano said.

Sandy’s destructive winds led to dramatic scenes for some Great Neck residents.

Police had cordoned off the intersection of South Middle Neck Road and Pont Street Tuesday morning, after what residents at an adjacent aparment building described as a transformer blow-out that caused an electrical fire.

David Chu and his daughter Diana said they saw the top of the telephone pole outside their apartment go up in flames.

“There were explosions last night,” said Diana, who is in the fourth grade and was excited about the prospect of staying home from school.

Another resident in the 50 South Middle Neck Road apartment building, Robert Weibman, said the fire started between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

“We were in our apartment and it was a light show going on,” said Weibman. “The whole top of the pole was on fire.”

While the damage on Pont Street did not appear to cause any residential damage, a home at the intersection of Brompton Road and Grosvenor Place suffered a major impact from a tree knocked over by storm winds.

A large tree was upended by the storm, toppling onto the house’s roof. The tree, split at the roots, peeled off a section of turf when it fell, shearing inches of grass and soil away from the sidewalk.

Trees also rested on top of power lines at the Great Neck South school complex.

Village of Great Neck Plaza Mayor Jean Celender praised the efforts of the village’s public works department and the coordination between municipal, county and regional authorities.

Fallen trees rendered several streets impassable. As of Tuesday all but one road in the Village of Great Neck Plaza had been cleared, according to Celender.

“We were fortunate. Other areas got hit harder,” Celender said. “[Department of Public Works employees] have done a tremendous job.”

Celender said that, in contrast to communication failures during past crises, the village has been successfully coordinating its response with the Town of North Hempstead, the Long Island Power Authority and other emergency response organizations.

Celender said she had not heard of any storm-related injuries in Great Neck Plaza.

The Village of Kings Point escaped major flooding, said Lieutenant George Banville of the Kings Point Police Department, but had to contend with downed trees and live wires.

“People assume because all the lights are out that none of the wires are hot,” Banville said, “but yet here, I found these two branches on the ground that were glowing like charcoals.”

Banville commended the Department of Public Works employees who he said have not returned home since the storm hit Great Neck.

“They sleep here, shower here... and go back out and work,” he said.

Banville said roughly one third of Kings Point residents had power after Sandy knocked out electricity for the entire village Monday night. He urged residents to be patient, saying that power restoration was a work-intensive process.

99 percent of the Village of Lake Success is still without power, according to Mayor Ronald Cooper.

Cooper said that the Department of Public Works had cleared all the debris from the villages’ roads, but that LIPA was yet to send repair workers to bring power back online.

““I think that LIPA is communicating very very well, but on the execution side they have problems because of lack of personnel,” Cooper said. “It’s too early to tell if they have an appropriate plan for this.”

Some business owners soldiered on despite the storm - and in the case of Tobacco Plaza co-owner Ken Isaacs, despite a lack of power.

Isaacs, who said his Lakeville Road shop lost electricity at about 6:10 p.m Monday night, told the Great Neck News that his store had escaped damage.

“We got lucky... there was no flooding, no damage, no leakage,” he said. “The real problem will be how long it takes the power to come back on.”

Without power, he said, he would lose much of his clientele - people who gather in his store “to commiserate” over cigars and pipes.

Some businesses on a stretch of Middle Neck Road near the intersection of Gussack Plaza that escaped outages were also open. A full house packed Gino’s Pizza, and Jean Marie’s American Bistro featured a handwritten sign in its window: “We will be open today.”

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