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10/29/13 7:00am
10/29/2013 7:00 AM


One year ago, Superstorm Sandy touched down in Riverhead, bringing with her a wrath – or more precisely, a combination of tidal surge, winds and rain – unseen by most in the area.

A full year later, the Town of Riverhead is still owed $750,000 in federal funding to help reimburse the cost borne by the storm.

This timeline takes a look back at some parts of the chaotic week that hit the area.

Paul Squire contributed to this project.

10/29/13 7:00am
PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The gazebo by the Peconic River flipped over in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

PAUL SQUIRE FILE PHOTO | The gazebo by the Peconic River flipped over in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.

Nearly a year after superstorm Sandy swept across the North Fork, knocking down trees, taking out power lines and flooding downtown Riverhead under several feet of storm surge, Riverhead Town is still waiting on about $750,000 in federal reimbursement funds it requested to cover related repair costs.

“We have received money, but not the lion’s share,” said Police Chief David Hegermiller, the town’s liaison to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Chief Hegermiller said the town applied for more than $1 million in funding from FEMA to pay for repairs and minor improvements to mitigate future storm damage. But as of last week, the town has received only about 25 percent of those reimbursement funds.

Related: Timeline breaks down Sandy’s arrival to the Riverhead area

Until a couple of months ago, he said, the town hadn’t received any funding from FEMA.

Chief Hegermiller believes the sheer amount of damage caused by Sandy across the U.S. is partially to blame for the delay in getting FEMA funding approval.

“This was just a major storm,” he said. “The paperwork is just drowning them.”

The complexity of the FEMA funding approval process may also be contributing to the delay. Municipalities that apply for FEMA relief don’t receive the funds directly from FEMA, but through the New York State Office of Emergency Management — to which FEMA gives the money. Applicants have to file project worksheets — detailed folders describing the exact cost and reason for the request — with state officials, who review the project worksheets themselves before sending them on to FEMA for a second review.

Click here to read our past Superstorm Sandy coverage.

Often, the state will return a worksheet asking for clarifications.

“I don’t want to tell you how many times I went down to Iron Pier to look at the concrete that was out of kilter,” Chief Hegermiller said. “All that stuff takes time.”

The town has completed most of the 20 project worksheets it plans to fi le with FEMA. Consultants from the state are now working in the police department basement to review the final worksheets for approval, town offi cials said.    “We’re not the only ones in this position,” said town fi nancial administrator Bill Rothaar.

Most of the money used during Sandy cleanup came from budget lines set up for employee overtime and contingencies, meaning no money was taken from the general fund in 2012, he said.

But “a couple” of Sandy-related problems that cropped up this year had to be paid for using general funds because FEMA approval was taking too long, Mr. Rothaar said.

“We weren’t getting approvals and the board was making decisions that this needed to be done,” he said.

The delays, in turn, have also slowed down other town functions and departments. The town’s audit, for example, could have been fi nished about a month earlier had the FEMA funding been in the town’s coffers.

The town has also applied for several state hazard mitigation project grants to help bolster the its defenses against future disasters, Chief Hegermiller said.

One of those applications would secure $6.5 million to prevent storm-water from getting into the town’s sewer system, while another roughly $8.5 million proposal would move the sewer district’s Defriest pump station downtown to elevate it out of the fl ood plain, he said.

Another proposal asks for $350,000 to pay for a new generator. But Chief Hegermiller thinks the grants will become “very competitive.” Only $200 million has been made available for the mitigation grants across the entire state.

“This isn’t a slam dunk,” he said. “There’s a lot of hurdles to go through.”

Meanwhile, town officials say that a plan to install a series of plastic walls to prevent storm surges from flooding downtown is still in the planning phases.

A Utah-based company presented the “Muscle Wall” to Town Board members in April. The 6-by-4-foot sections of plastic wall would be placed together to keep floodwaters from reaching downtown’s businesses, as occurred during Sandy.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the town will seek federal and county grant money to pay for the walls.

“We don’t have any money to buy it right now but I was hoping to use the hazard mitigation money FEMA and the county were putting on the table,” Ms. Giglio said.

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11/14/12 3:33pm
11/14/2012 3:33 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The bonfire circle and nurse’s station/youth leaders cabin at Camp DeWolfe in Wading River.

A Wading River summer camp has opened its doors for victims of superstorm Sandy to enjoy hot showers, cooked meals, and warm beds — free of charge.

Camp DeWolfe on Route 25A re-opened Thursday after Sandy swept through the area and camp officials decided to help those in need.

“As a non-profit, we will feel the effects of Hurricane Sandy for months to come,” camp officials said in a statement. “But, in this time of need, we are happy to be able to offer support to our community and those less fortunate than us.”

The camp will be open on the following select dates in November and December for victims to use the facility’s showers, eat fresh cooked meals and rest on the complex’s Tempur-pedic beds:

• Nov. 26 – 28
• Nov. 28 – 30
• Dec. 1 – 3
• Dec. 7 – 9
• Dec. 14 – 16

Camp DeWolfe will also welcome volunteer teams from across New York City and Long Island to use the facility as a home base while they “serve those most in need.”

For more information about the program, contact the office at (631) 929-4325 or call Matt Tees at the same number to see how you can help the camp’s Sandy relief efforts.

11/13/12 5:00pm
11/13/2012 5:00 PM

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | A gazebo in downtown Riverhead lies knocked over by Sandy’s storm surge on Oct. 29

Riverhead Town will have to pay about $1.2 million in overtime, repairs and reconstruction costs in the wake of superstorm Sandy, Supervisor Sean Walter  said Monday.

That figure is more than double the town’s initial estimate of $500,000, he said.

The town is hoping to be reimbursed for damages from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), but even if it does get FEMA aid, the town will still have to pay 25 percent of those costs, Mr. Walter said.

Sandy brought destruction to homes along the Peconic Bay, flooded downtown Riverhead and knocked out power for thousands of residents across town.

The damage was mostly concentrated in bulkheads around town, docks, boat ramps and bluffs around town, he said.

Despite flooding that caused the Peconic River to rise nearly nine feet and flood the parking lot along the river front, Mr. Walter said there was minor damage to town property including the town’s gazebos which were tossed by the storm surge.

Downtown business owners reported flooding issues caused by Sandy, and at least one business — Pieceful Quilting — was forced to relocate because of flooding damage.

Widespread power outages — which do not fall under the town’s jurisdiction — were the worst problem, Mr. Walter said.

“This was a LIPA storm,” he said. “[It was] the power problem more than anything else.”

Tropical Storm Irene, which knocked down trees with high winds last summer  but was otherwise less serious than originally forecasted, cost the town about $450,000, said Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller in a previously published report.

The town will seek to dredge Wading River Creek to “shore up the houses on Creek Road,” Mr. Walter added. Unlike the South Shore, Riverhead Town does not normally replenish beaches that erode during major storms.

“It costs a lot of money to have an engineered beach,” he said, adding the town will try to secure funding to repair bluffs in Wading River.

[email protected]

Additional reporting by Tim Gannon

11/12/12 10:00am
11/12/2012 10:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Pieceful Quilting owner Angie Veeck with Stella Johnson Saturday.

Pieceful Quilting owner Angie Veeck got help from her neighbor Stella Johnson and others to move what she salvaged of her store’s contents to a trailer Saturday afternoon so it all can be moved to her new location in Calverton Commons.

What would you do without neighbors?” she said.

She told the News-Review last week that her insurance company told her they would not cover anything.

The trailer was on loan from her husband’s boss Tom Crowley whose marina, Oakdale Yachts, was destroyed in the storm.


11/10/12 8:00am
11/10/2012 8:00 AM
Sandy, chainsaws, safety

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Jason Binkus, owner of Binkus Landscape Inc., cuts up a tree that landed on homeowner Garret Moore’s East Main Street house during last week’s hurricane.

You might be tempted to remove that fallen tree from your front yard yourself this week. And some of the tiny ones are fair game.

But that giant oak resting on your rooftop? Some things you just shouldn’t try at home.

“Anything that requires a ladder should be left to professionals,” said Josh Carrick of Carrick’s Tree Service in Aquebogue. “Ladders and chain saws don’t mix.”

Mr. Carrick’s company is one of many on the North Fork with their hands full of tree limbs since Hurricane Sandy swept across the North Fork Oct. 29, as they remove trees from atop North Fork homes, cars and driveways.

By Monday Mr. Carrick’s company had removed about fifty trees throughout the Riverhead, Jamesport and Mattituck areas. “We’ve had three crews working almost non-stop since the storm,” he said.

Mr. Carrick said that in addition to trees with rotten centers, his company has seen a lot of trees downed due to poor landscaping techniques, as well as tree limbs fallen from un-pruned trees.

“Trees that are planted too deep have roots that grow straight up and ones in wire baskets that are too big for them can have their roots grow in a circle,” he said. “If the roots aren’t well-established, there’s nothing anchoring the tree down. We saw a lot of that in the storm, as well as more established trees that hadn’t been pruned regularly.”

He said trees with dense crowns, due to lack of pruning, tend to get damaged by the wind more than regularly pruned trees.

Chet Ciaglo of Peconic-based Pine Oaks Lawncare and Landscaping Inc. said his crew has also been busy clearing downed trees farther east.

“I’d say we’ve removed about two dozen already so far,” he said Friday. “There were a lot of trees down in Nassau Point, along Peconic Bay Boulevard in the Mattituck/Laurel area and in Southold, the Bayview and Cedar Beach areas, as well as by Kenney’s Beach.”

Mr. Ciaglo and Mr. Carrick said that while homeowners can certainly take it upon themselves to safely remove trees from their own lawns, trees on houses should be left to landscaping professionals.

“Sometimes you need to use a piece of heavy equipment to get trees off of houses and it may need to be tied off in a special way so it doesn’t hurt the house any more than it already has,” Mr. Ciaglo said.

He added that trees that fall on top of electrical wires should be exclusively reserved for removal by LIPA, as no landscapers are certified to remove them.

Dotty McKnight of Wading River said she returned this week from a trip down south to find that a large tree in front of her North Country Road home had fallen onto electrical wires.

While she said four tree companies had left fliers for her she was told nothing can be done until LIPA comes to clear the tree.

“We couldn’t even get through our front door,” she said.

It’s a scenario playing out all over the North Fork, but as much as residents might be tempted to take matters into their own hands, Jonathan Shipman of Shamrock Tree Expert Co. in Mattituck urges people not to.

“If a large tree falls on a smaller sapling and you cut the smaller sapling the wrong way, the tree could spring toward you,” Mr. Shipman warned. “It’s called spring pull and trees can fall on top of a person that way, knocking them unconscious or even killing them.”

He added that anything more than 14 feet off the ground should also be left to professionals.

For homeowners looking to chop up downed trees that have fallen in their yards, Mr. Shipman and Mr. Ciaglo both said extreme caution should be used when wielding a chain saw, a tool they agreed needs to be held with both hands at all times.

Mr. Ciaglo added that homeowners also need to make sure they’re cutting in front of them, instead of off to one side. To prevent possible injury, he said, chain saws should be placed in the “lock” position while running but not in active use, so the blade stops turning.

According to Mr. Shipman, another way to prevent injury is to wear proper clothing.

“You also don’t want to wear loose-fitting clothing when you’re using a chain saw,” he said. “Baggy T-shirts and pants can get sucked into the equipment and pull you into the blade.”

Both tree professionals said protection of one’s face and hands are also at the top of the list for chain saw safety.

“There are helmets out there with screen shields in the front to keep wood chips from going into your eyes,” Mr. Ciaglo said.

Mr. Shipman said in addition to face and hand protection, ear protection and “chain saw chaps” should be considered.

“Wearing chain saw chaps prevents you from cutting into your leg through your pants,” he said. “Because of the artery that runs through the femur in the leg, it’s very important for people to do that.”

Mr. Ciaglo said leather chain saw chaps can also be helpful when climbing trees in the absence of a bucket truck.

[email protected]

11/09/12 4:30pm
11/09/2012 4:30 PM
Superstorm Sandy, Riverhead Fire Department Mastic Shirley, Long Island

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | RFD hurricane relief donations organizer Amanda Starks (right) gets help from volunteers (from left) Jared Polak, 12, and Girls Scouts Troop 1159 members Renee Mott, Nicole Levasseur and Kristal Dewey at Riverhead fire headquarters Friday evening.

Riverhead firefighters are leading relief efforts in Mastic and Shirley, areas that were hit hard by superstorm Sandy.

Residents of the two South Shore hamlets have been somewhat neglected, as most relief efforts are focusing on Long Beach, Queens and elsewhere, fire officials said.

Donations being collected at Riverhead fire headquarters on Roanoke Avenue were mostly trickling in from local residents, said fire district manager Frank Darrow, but he has received calls from Connecticut, upstate New York and even California from groups wanting to make large donations.

Amanda Starks, wife of volunteer Charlie Starks, has been organizing the relief efforts for RFD.

She’s been arriving at the Riverhead firehouse each evening at 6 p.m. with a crew of 10 to 15 volunteers to sort through donations.

“Tonight we are supposed to have the Girls Scouts and [Riverhead High School] cheerleaders helping out,” she said Friday. “I’m very happy with the outcome, the support of folks, and Jamesport Fire Department using RFD as a hub for donations. It is really good to see that so much good can come out of this event when you see a mass amount of people who want to help it overshadows the negativity.”

Mr. Darrow said he’s also received many calls from LIPA workers, asking if Riverhead firefighters could put up out-of-town utility workers in the Roanoke Avenue firehouse. Some workers can’t find hotel rooms to stay in, and many have been sleeping in their trucks or tents.

The RFD has rooms on the second floor with cots and blankets set up. He said that they may get as many as 30 workers staying there Friday night.

Riverhead firefighter Scott Robertson picked up donations at the firehouse and Our Lady of the Shrine in Manorville Friday morning using a flatbed truck from his family’s business, Scotty’s D & E Tire Service on East Main Street.

He dropped the donations off later at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Mastic Beach.

“They are thankful for what they are getting, but they are overwhelmed by the citizens coming in to get what they need,” Mr. Robertson said. “They did stress that they are tight on space and they don’t need any more clothing. They need non-perishable food, cleaning supplies, bleach to clean the mold, industrial garbage bags, tools, hammers, brooms, and mops.

“They are also looking for pet food, kitty litter and other supplies to take care of their pets.”

On Saturday Riverhead Fire Department volunteers will be out in fire trucks at Waldbaum’s and Lowe’s and other retailers to collect donations from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The Roanoke Avenue firehouse will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday to collect donations with Riverhead High School cheerleaders and others volunteering to do sorting. Firefighters and their families will then prepare dinner for all the volunteers.

Ms. Starks said that WalMart donated a $200 gift card to the cause, but she wasn’t sure yet if it would be used for donations or to buy Christmas gifts for children those who lost possessions in Hurricane Sandy.

[email protected]

11/09/12 10:00am
Pieceful Quilting, Downtown Riverhead, Calverton

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Angie Veeck, outside Pieceful Quilting on McDermott Avenue, says she’s now moving to Calverton.

Superstorm Sandy and its storm surge that put half of downtown underwater has claimed at least one local business.

Pieceful Quilting, located at the southern corner of downtown”s McDermott Avenue, is in ruins, and owner Angie Veeck says she’s now moving to Calverton.

On Saturday, three employees saved all they could, laying materials across tables and countertops in the shop, which had become a bit of a practice drill; the store has been flooded before in previous storms.

But Ms. Veeck said this storm was unlike others.

In past storms, Ms. Veeck said flood waters would recede back to the Peconic River about as quickly as it would come in. This time flood waters, which reached two feet, stuck around the shop for 36 hours, causing black mold to grow throughout her rented space.

“We also didn’t lose electricity last time,” she said. “This time we lost electricity for five days.”

She had expected her flood and business insurance would cover her expenses, but a phone call Thursday morning with her insurance companies left her disappointed.

“You know what they gave me?” she asked a reporter. “Nothing — the big donut hole.”

During the storm, Ms. Veeck helplessly watched video footage of downtown Riverhead from her laptop in a Houston hotel room, where she had gone to attend the International Quilt Market.

“As they panned to show the rising waters, I said to myself, ‘Oh my god, that’s my shop,'” she said.

Unable to get a flight home quickly enough, due to the storm, her husband, Ken, and others, ripped the sopping wet carpets from the shop on Wednesday as Ms. Veeck called those companies she’d made orders from at the quilt market to ensure they pushed back all deliveries for at least a month.

She is still unsure when the move to Calverton will take place, but calls it the “silver lining” to the cruel cards Hurricane Sandy’ dealt the quilt shop, which has housed quilting businesses for 30 years now.

“I’m just putting one foot in front of the other at this point,” Ms. Veeck said. “I just keep telling myself to “Keep calm and carry on.”

[email protected]

For more coverage on Hurricane Sandy’s effect on downtown businesses, pick up a copy of next week’s News-Review newspaper.