Karen Testa watched as the water rose around her home on Morningside Avenue in South Jamesport Monday evening.
She and her boyfriend had decided to ride out Hurricane Sandy, thinking they could always leave if the weather got worse.
The Peconic Bay surged over her yard, flooding the neighborhood under several feet of water. The canal where residents kept their boats overflowed into the streets and trees began to fall due to the heavy winds.
Ms. Testa and her boyfriend waded out to a tractor in their driveway that miraculously still worked, despite the flooding.
Riding over planks of wood and dodging downed power lines, Ms. Testa escaped the area.
“It was like the Posiedon Adventure,” she said Thursday morning. “We’re both fine, thank God, but it was scary. Very scary.”
Ms. Testa. was one of hundreds of Jamesport residents returning to their homes days after Sandy swept through the area Monday, bringing historic storm surges and causing beach erosion damages houses along the bay.
Ms. Testa’s house had three feet of water in the basement Thursday morning. Her jetskis, parked on stands in the backyard, had been lifted away and dumped onto a neighbor’s yard hundreds of feet away across the street.
Her driveway was a dirty mess of silt, sand and mud dumped by the surge. Nearby, a utility pole dangled dangerously over the street, held up only by the taught power wires.
“My whole block was underwater,” Ms. Testa said. “We walked back to our house in waders.”
Luckily, though her garage was flooded, the water didn’t reach high enough to submerge her house. In her eight years of living in the home, Ms. Testa said she’d never seen any storm as bad as Sandy.
“There was no canal. It was just water,” she said, reminiscing on the storm’s fury. “It was crazy.”
Garret Moore inherited a small colony of 7 summer cottages in Jamesport on the bay from his father who had owned and operated them since the 1950s. He was hauling a broken sailboat with a golf cart up Smith Lane from the beach to a garbage pile Thursday morning.
“This is the absolute worst we have ever had of any storms going way back,” he said. “The other storms were like hitting a single in baseball. This was a home run. Waves were breaking over the bulkhead to the east at 10 to 12 feet high.”
Mr. Moore lives right on the bay and moved up to his daughter’s house by the road when the storm hit. He was happy to hear that Riverhead Town will be waiving building permit fees.
He said he applied to the DEC for permits to replace the bulkhead on his property in July and just got the permits last week.
“I was planning on replacing it because it was in bad shape but not so soon,” Mr. Moore said. “This was totally unbelievable. I really didn’t expect this.”
Elsewhere in South Jamesport, homeowners Peter Schanz and Jennifer Giordano sorted through items scattered on their lawn Thursday morning to determine if they were ruined or salvageable.
The storm surge had filled the basement of their summer house at 1 Dunlookin Lane with four to five feet of water Monday.
“They evacuated us Monday morning and we went back to our house in Hicksville,” Ms. Giordano said. “We called FEMA and they said they would get back to us in 24 hours and they have not but that’s understandable.”
She said that all the utilities in the basement were ruined: a water heater, two refrigerators, washer and dryer, tools and even a golf cart stored under the deck that she said she uses to get around to the beach.
“Everything is lost,” she said.
Around the corner, Brian Freeman watched on Thursday afternoon as a National Grid repairman inspected his parent’s utilities at their home on Front Street.
His parents had decided to stay at the house through Sandy when the waves of the surge crashed through two windows in their first floor bedroom, flooding the home with six-foot waves. The couple retreated to the second floor of the beachfront home until the waters receded and escaped without injury.
“Usually any damage they got was to the property, but never water into the house,” Mr. Freeman said. His parents were staying at a friends in town, he said.
Mr. Freeman said the house didn’t suffer any structural damage, but stairs leading down to the beach were torn up and thrown onto a neighbor’s yard by the surge. A shed near the water was missing, swept away by the waters; no one knows where it, or the bicycles inside the shed, went.
He said his father was not too upset by the damage, happy to be safe and saying the things lost in the storm were “just dollars and cents.”
“I guess this is the price you pay for the beautiful view,” Mr. Freeman said.
Additional reporting by Barbaraellen Koch.