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Queens Chronicle

Hurricane Sandy slams SE Queens

Storm topples trees, powerlines; disables traffic signals, causes flooding

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Posted: Thursday, November 1, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:53 am, Thu Nov 8, 2012.

The storm may have been over by Tuesday, but residents of east and southeast Queens were still feeling the effects of getting walloped by Hurricane Sandy. The sky remained gray and overcast and there was sporadic rainfall, but the blustering wind was no longer wreaking havoc.

One could not go more than a few blocks without seeing the effects of the so-called “frankenstorm” — a mix of hurricane and nor’easter conditions. Some trees were snapped in half, others were torn out by the roots. Dozens of traffic signals were dead, causing chaotic traffic conditions in some areas.

Several businesses lost their awnings, and one beauty shop on Merrick Boulevard lost part of its facade along with it. Many residents were left without power and calls to the city didn’t go through or were met by an answering machine, which told people to leave a message. There was massive flooding in the Rockaways, five known deaths and sporadic looting reported. Some 100 houses were lost to fire in Breezy Point. The boardwalk broke away from the beach and smashed into people’s homes. Motorists drove through virtual lakes at the Queens-Nassau County border near the Bay Harbor Mall.

“The situation in the Rockaways is grim,” City Councilman James Sanders Jr. (D-Laurelton) said at a press conference Wednesday at his Laurelton office. “The area gets worse from one end to the other. ... The police are understaffed and cannot do the job. I have spoken to the mayor and have requested the National Guard.”

There is no electricity or heat in the Rockaways, Sanders said, and he estimates food would run out before the end of the week. “There are bodegas selling food, but there is a question of how safe the food is. I’ve seen some Chinese restaurants open. Where are you getting supplies and how are you cooking this stuff?”

Some 50,000 people were without power in Sanders’ district as of Wednesday morning. In addition to the Rockaways, Rosedale and Springfield Gardens were also hard hit.

Some areas in St. Albans and Jamaica also experienced problems.

Servio Moreno has lived in his home on Parsons Boulevard for 30 years and said Sandy is the worst storm he’s ever seen, surpassing Tropical Storm Irene, which struck last year.

“The wind was very strong,” Moreno said. “I stayed inside with my family. We hoped nothing was going to happen, but then we had this problem with the tree.”

At around 8 p.m. Monday, the fierce winds toppled the tree in front of Moreno’s house, onto his fence and against the side of the home. He said he called 311, but couldn’t get through.

“It fell over and all I heard was a boom and the lights went off,” Moreno said. “And they’re still out.”

Michael Wilkie of 171st Place in St. Albans experienced a similar situation except luckily for him the tree outside his home fell into the street instead of collapsing on the dwelling. Wilkie said he knew something was going to happen when he noticed the tree beginning to bend from the wind.

“We didn’t lose power, but the lights kept blinking on and off for an hour,” Wilkie said. “I tried calling 311, but I kept getting a busy signal.”

One good thing about the storm is that it brought out the best in some people, who worked with their neighbors to clean up the mess.

Nina Doster lost power when a tree collapsed on her house on 122nd Avenue in South Jamaica, but she was thankful that several of the men who live on the block helped cut the tree down, while the women worked sweeping up the leaves and branches. A Con Edison crew was out there on Tuesday afternoon working to restore the power.

“The storm was very scary,” Doster said. “The wind shook the whole house. Me and my children were inside watching television and we heard a big boom and we looked out the window and saw that the tree had fallen onto the house.”

On Sayres Avenue in St. Albans, the hurricane was no match for a massive tree, which was ripped out by the roots, taking with it part of Marion Anderson’s lawn, blocking the street and his driveway. He said he was going to have to start removing some of it with a chainsaw in order to get his car out.

His neighbors Leola Ross and Bobby Williams said they have repeatedly asked the city to prune the tree because the branches had become wild and unruly, but to no avail.

“We have had a lot of problems with that tree,” Williams said. “It has big branches that were hanging over the street, and they were dead and they were about to fall off.”

In Springfield Gardens, 142nd Avenue resident Danny Palmer was standing outside with some friends talking, since he was without power and couldn’t do much else. A huge tree had landed on the power lines causing them to spark and short out. Phone lines were also out of service.

“It was around 10 o’clock when the tree came down,” Palmer said. “We didn’t hear any noise, but the power went out right away.”

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