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North Shore Devastated

Sandy blasts swath of destruction

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Posted: Monday, November 5, 2012 1:20 pm

Neighborhoods throughout New Hyde Park, Garden City Park, the Willistons, Mineola and Roslyn were scenes of devastation, strewn with large trees uprooted and power lines down in the wake of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday.

Residents could be seen walking through the streets, stopping to talk with neighbors about the destruction the storm had visited on the area, or contemplating the chaos in silence with stunned expressions on their faces.

One fatality occurred in Roslyn when Safar Shafinoori, 84, of Engineers Rd., Roslyn, went outside to move his car at 7:30 on Monday night and was struck in the head by a falling tree, according to 3rd Squad Nassau County Police Detectives. A Nassau County Police Ambulance transported Shafinoori to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead one hour later.

A storm-related injury occurred in Garden City Park early Monday night when detectives said a 46-year-old man on Birchwood Drive lit a firework in his residence that he thought was a candle during the power outage and blew his hand off at the wrist.

The area west of Covert Avenue in New Hyde Park resembled a war zone, with large trees on virtually every block toppled in power lines and taking transformers with them.

Liz Limpert on 5th Avenue was looking through her second floor window around dusk on Monday when she saw a large tree in the sidewalk across the street topple into the power lines above her sidewalk.

“You could see the sparks. And you could see the tree coming right at you. It was really scary,” she said, adding that the tree stopped falling just short of her window.

“It was unbelievable,” said New Hyde Park Fire Department ex-chief Harold Higgins, a 5th Avenue neighbor.

Higgins recounted standing outside his house, watching a tree down the street swaying in strong wind gusts as a neighbor of his was driving down the other side of the street. He ran toward her vehicle shouting, “Stop! Stop!” The neighbor slammed on her brakes as the tree toppled harmlessly just in front of SUV, Higgins said.

On 6th Avenue, Joe Dunn and his wife were sitting in their living room when a tree in front of a neighbor’s house came down and struck their front window. His wife jumped off the couch and they spent the rest of the night in basement “just in case lightning struck twice,” he said.

In some cases, root systems unable to support the large shade trees gave way, and the trees came down silently.

“They came down pretty quickly. It was really strange,” said Jessica Di Martino.

In his 55 years of living in New Hyde Park, New Hyde Park Fire Commissioner John Brown said, “This is the most devastation that I’ve seen here. The chief had to bring everybody in.”

Brown commended the efforts of his department and those of neighboring fire departments during the hurricane.

He said the New Hyde Park Department of Public Works “really jumped on” handling tree removal throughout the village.

“It was like a fireworks who at three o’clock this morning,” said village DPW Superintendent Tom Gannon.

At Village Hall with Gannon on Tuesday morning, New Hyde Park Deputy Mayor Robert Lofaro said National Grid had responded promptly to the scene of gas leaks.

“We have our crews out there now, removing trees and clearing roadways,” Lofaro said.

More than 70 trees in the village were felled by high winds generated by the storm.

New Hyde Park Mayor Daniel Petruccio declared a state of emergency in the village as of 4 p.m on Monday.

During the height of the storm, he said, the fire department had more than 100 volunteers on hand to respond to more than 75 calls that began coming in at 10 a.m. on Monday and continued through the following morning. They were primarily calls about downed trees and power lines – and gas leaks resulting from disrupted lines as trees were uprooted.

During several hours of surveying damage in New Hyde Park, Mineola, the Willistons and Albertson on Tuesday, no Long Island Power Authority trucks could be seen. Fire departments and DPW crews must await LIPA technicians to deal with downed wires before the trees on them can be removed.

One fatality occurred in Roslyn when Safar Shafinoori, 84, of Engineers Road, Roslyn, went outside to move his car at 7:30 on Monday night and was struck in the head by a falling tree, according to 3rd Squad Nassau County Police Detectives. A Nassau County Police Ambulance transported Shafinoori to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead one hour later.

On Latham Road in Mineola, John Lane and a neighbor were cutting sections of a large tree that had lifted up the sidewalk and fallen in his house, causing damage to the front of the structure.

“It was like a locomotive,” he said of the sound it made during the storm the previous night.

On Emory Road, Jackie Carway said she didn’t hear the tree that fell into her house, but the blue flickering lights produced when it hit the power lines drew her attention.

“One of the wires was on fire,” she said.

The Mineola Fire Department responded to approximately 50 calls during the storm, according to department Chief Joseph Pratt, who said 60 volunteers had worked through the night to deal with 20 trees that fell on houses, taking power lines down as the fell.

“The damage we sustained in the village was considerably worse than Irene,” Pratt said, referring to the tropical storm that struck the area one year ago.

In one case on Latham Road, a live wire burned for hours on a front lawn, prompting several return calls to the location, where a small area of the house caught fire as a result.

He said the wind weakened trees that were vulnerable, but added the destruction would have been worse if the ground had been saturated with rain.

Pratt said he had maintained contact with Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, village DPW superintendent Thomas Rini and village clerk Joseph Scalero.

On Tuesday afternoon, Rini said his crews had been out working steadily along with contractors called in to assist in tree removal.

“If we can get close to it, we’re doing it,” Rini said.

East Williston Fire Department Chief Patrick Theodore said his department had responded to approximately 40 calls through Monday, primarily about downed trees and power lines.

"Fortunately, no injuries to report,” Theodore said.

Volunteers at the Williston Park Fire Department unofficially estimated that they had responded to more than 35 calls during the storm.

Apart from the fatality in Roslyn and the injury in Garden City Park, area fire departments reported no injuries as a direct result of the storm or situations where residents needed to be extricated from their houses.

Another bright spot were the few stores providing food that remained open.

Williston Park Deli owner Joe Polansky said the food spoilage he sustained after Irene had convinced him to buy a generator. Customers were lined up out the door of the deli at 6 a.m. on Tuesday morning.

“It’s been absolutely insane. We couldn’t keep up with the demand. We’re out of everything,” Polansky said late Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Umberto’s Ristorante & Pizzeria in New Hyde Park was packed with customers placing orders for pizza pies they couldn’t phone in.

Umberto’s manager Vinnie Corteo estimated that he and his co-workers – visibly working as fast they could – had turned out more than 200 pizzas by late afternoon on Tuesday.

Panera Bread in Garden City Park, located in an oasis where power was still on after the hurricane, was packed with people on Wednesday morning, lining up for food orders and charging cell phones and laptop computers.

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano issued a conserve water order on Tuesday night due to a critical infrastructure failure caused by the storm at the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. The Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant is not operational and can’t treat sewerage, the county reported. This generally impacts residents residing south of the Long Island Expressway from the Queens border to the Meadowbrook Parkway with exception to Cedarhurst and Lawrence. County and state critical response teams are actively working on a solution.

The Town of North Hempstead had declared a state of emergency on Saturday before the storm struck.

All town operations remain open.

Meanwhile, all recreational activities in the town have been suspended. The offices of the town Receiver of Taxes and the Town Clerk will be open only for emergency situations.

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