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Sandy Slays Stewart Manor Trees, Power Lines

Close-knit community rises above devastation to help one another

One by one, Stewart Manor residents began to emerge from their powerless homes on Tuesday, Oct. 30, to assess the damage brought on by Hurricane Sandy. Dodging downed trees, utility poles and power lines, neighbors gathered in clusters throughout the village with dazed looks on their faces. The overall mood, however, was positive. Residents were relieved, knowing it could have been worse, and were at the ready to help one another.

“I just showed [my neighbor across the street] how to light her stovetop so she could perk coffee,” said an Elton Road resident. Appreciating the simple, everyday things helped local residents maintain perspective as news reports of complete devastation of towns like Long Beach rolled in.

Beth Kilcullen, an Elton Road resident whose garage looked like it was pried open on one side with a can opener and appeared to be suspended in midair (see photo) because of a fallen tree whose roots unearthed the garage, truly appreciated how much worse the village could have been hit, as she waited anxiously to hear from relatives who live in Long Beach. Despite her own despair, Kilcullen, who appeared to be the only link to the outside world thanks to her corded landline telephone, opened her front door to all who passed by. She graciously took on the role of telephone operator and receptionist, as neighbors poured into her home to make phone calls and leave messages for friends and family members in the wake of the storm.

“That’s what’s nice about living in a tight-knit community like Stewart Manor,” Kilcullen said. “We all look out for each other.”

In the days before the hurricane hit, Mayor James Kelly, the board of trustees, the department of public works and the Stewart Manor Fire Department worked together to prepare. “The DPW and fire department readied generators and chainsaws, fueled vehicles and had standby crews in place,” said Mayor Kelly. “Our fire department obtained items such as cots, MREs and water. …  The village board met to review our emergency plans and procedures. Information was sent to the residents, advising them to prepare for the impending storm,” he added.

Indeed, Kelly communicated with residents early and often. Prior to the storm, many email alerts were sent to residents, and following the storm, when power and the Internet were down, the mayor reverted to the pony express, hand-delivering letters to all residents to ensure constant up-to-date information.

While clean-up and power restoration is ongoing, the majority of fallen trees were removed soon after Sandy hit. The six-member DPW crew has been heralded in the past for its service to the village but it set the bar even higher this time around.

“[They] were out not only during the storm, but immediately afterwards,” said Mayor Kelly. “Our first priority was to make sure the roads were clear for emergency vehicles. They did a great job, not only in removing trees and branches, but also making sure drains remained clear to prevent flooding. Regular sanitation pick-up was maintained as well.”

There was no rest for the weary, though, as Mother Nature followed Sandy with a knockout punch. Many of the trees and limbs that were spared by Sandy could not withstand the weight of the snow dumped on the region by the unseasonal nor’easter on Nov. 7, just nine days after the hurricane. Once again the DPW and SMFD did their best to prepare. “We went into winter storm mode,” said Kelly. “Plows were readied, as were the salt spreaders. Fire department and DPW standby crews went back on alert and the generators were brought back out.”

At press time, nearly all residences and businesses in Stewart Manor had regained power. Much of the village regained power five days after Sandy but lost it again for a day following the nor’easter. The dead end block of Carlton Terrace between Salisbury Avenue and the LIRR received power late on Thursday, Nov. 8, after 10 days, but a few homes on Elton Road and Fernwood Terrace between Salisbury and Chester Avenues remained without power. “These two blocks were the hardest hit, sustaining broken utility poles … We have been in daily contact with not only LIPA but with the Town of Hempstead and the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management, and all of our elected officials, asking for assistance with power restoration,” Mayor Kelly said.  

Residents whose property sustained damage as a result of Hurricane Sandy can contact FEMA at 800-621-3362 or register at www.disasterassistance.gov. They can also contact the Stewart Manor Village Hall at 516-354-1800 for assistance regarding any insurance or FEMA issues.