NEW YORK (AP) – A tiny beachfront neighborhood told to evacuate before Sandy hit New York burned down as it was inundated by floodwaters, transforming a quaint corner of the Rockaways into a smoke-filled debris field.
By Tuesday morning, charred foundations of from 80 to 100 buildings were left in the sand at Breezy Point, a coastal community on Jamaica Bay known for its marshland and shorebirds.
Firefighters arrived at 11 p.m. Monday to find water chest-high in the streets, and used a boat to make rescues as orange flames engulfed home after home. The water and high winds whipping the coast from Sandy kept the blaze raging for several hours as firefighters hauled hoses while sloshing in ankle-high water.
“We watched the whole place go up in flames. It was hell night. It was the devil’s night,” said resident Thomas Reicherter.
One firefighter suffered a minor injury and was taken to a hospital. Two civilians suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene.
Firefighters had to rescue several more, climbing onto an awning to take trapped people from an upstairs apartment with a roof that was catching fire from the house next door. A row of about 25 businesses, including a shoe repair store, burned with apartments above many of them.
More than 190 firefighters were sent to the blaze, still putting out some pockets more than nine hours after it erupted, training hoses on the inside of a medical center.
As daylight broke Tuesday, a stone statue that appeared to represent the Virgin Mary stood next to wooden slats and debris-caked mud, surrounded by no homes. Two logs not attached to anything crushed the top of a red Ford SUV. Residents walked aimlessly through water-filled streets with electrical wires dangling down in front of them.
The neighborhood was among the low-lying areas the mayor said were a flood danger a day before Sandy came ashore, shuttering the nation’s largest city and cutting power to hundreds of thousands. Gene Morizzo, a security guard at an ocean apartment complex in nearby Rockaway Park, said about half of the 300 or so residents insisted on staying behind, noting that Irene didn’t hit the story hard a year ago amid the same warnings.
“I kept telling people it’s a mandatory evacuation. They said, `Oh it’s nothing, Irene this. Irene that.”
Residents couldn’t wait to get out on Tuesday. They were directed to a nearby firehouse in Far Rockaway, but that firehouse had been evacuated because it was under 5 feet of water and had no power.
John Frawley, 57, said he made a mistake by staying behind. “I stayed up all night,” he said. “The screams. The fire. It was horrifying.”
Frawley lived about five houses from the fire’s edge and said he spent the night terrified, “not knowing if the fire was going to jump the boulevard and come up to my house.”
In September, the same neighborhood was struck by a tornado that hurled debris in the air, knocked out power and startled residents who once thought of twisters as a Midwestern phenomenon.
The community of 12,000 borders Rockaway Park, where a historic boardwalk had been strewn around the sand, popped up in some spots like an opened can and heaved 30 to 40 feet in others. The beach’s lifeguard shack and restrooms were destroyed. Allison Miller stood on what was left of the buckled boardwalk in tears.
“My home is gone,” she said.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Workers comp: Signs your co-worker could be a fraud
- Who's the real founder of America's pastime?
- Epidemic rising? What you need to know about Alzheimer's in Arizona
- 5 unforgettable Wooden Award winners
- Family and hard work are keys to success of modern dairy farmers
- Genetic testing could hold answers for colon cancer survival
- Cold beers and baseball: A beer lover's guide to Spring Training
- Telecommuting: 5 tips to make it work for employers and employees
- See how top CFOs feel about economic growth in the Valley
- Migraine myths that keep patients from effective treatments
- Here’s why Gaydos went tankless with his water heater
- Bocce ball and basketball: How you can help Arizona's Special Olympics athletes
- Tips on building the best wine room in Arizona
- Avoid the nightmare: 6 tips to choose a great contractor
- Breast cancer: Improved testing and treatments means more survivors
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains