Scenes of closed roads, stranded drivers and children boogie boarding in streets flooded with water following the record-breaking rainfall Wednesday on parts of Long Island were replaced the following day by scenes of homeowners pumping out their basements, drying out their belongings on their lawns and looking for help getting their lives back together.
Among the places residents were looking for help was the New York State Department of Financial Services Insurance Response Unit Mobile Command Center, which attracted flood South Shore survivors from near and far to Islip Town Hall West on Montauk Highway, about a mile from where part of Route 27A was still closed Thursday due to a washout. But, some found frustration instead of assistance.
“I think this is a great idea that they’re here,” Anne Morrow, 47, a nurse whose Babylon home was flooded with five feet of water causing an estimated $60,000 in damage, told the Press while waiting on line at the command post in Islip. “But…if they’re telling us now that they’re only going to help people with flood insurance, why bother?”
Her family is one of thousands estimated to have suffered severe water damage in the flash flooding when 13 inches of rain fell in hours—setting a new statewide record—overwhelming storm drainage systems unequipped to handle such massive amounts of water early Tuesday.
Morrow waited on line anyway, just to see if they could give her a point in the right direction.
“This will financially crush us if we don’t get the help that we need,” she said.
Others, such as 42-year-old Chris Lettieri of Islip, said he doesn’t know how many thousands of dollars in damage his home incurred when a nearby sump overflowed and fish in his backyard pond began swimming across his lawn in the water that filled his basement, overwhelming his sump pump.
“Nobody was really prepared for this,” he said. “It happened so fast.”
Mary Kathryn Baker stood in front of Islip Town Hall for over an hour and a half, looking for answers.
“This is a joke,” she said. “I’ve been here since 8 am. There’s not one town representative here. This is not FEMA. You are on line just so they can tell you sorry, can’t help you. It’s a big smokescreen.”
Baker had questions about how to dispose of large items and chemicals. When she contacted the town, she was directed to the mobile unit, but they had no answers.
“I need to know, are you going to have a special pickup?” she asked, demonstrably frustrated. “What should I do with this stuff?”
George Haggerty, deputy secretary for financial services, repeatedly stated that the first order of business for residents was health and safety first.
“Secure your premises,” he said. “Do whatever you need to do. Document it all. Photograph it all. Videotape it all.”
“Take care of it and document the heck out of it,” he advised. “If you need to use a contractor to take stuff away, make sure it’s a licensed contractor. Make sure you have an invoice, that sort of thing. You’d be surprised now how many people will pop up, all of the sudden, ‘I’m a rubbage removal guy’ and [take] advantage of people. We just want to make sure people are aware. Most folks out there need to be careful. Particularly our vulnerable populations.”
Once homes are secure, Haggerty said the state is here to help people get through the confusing process of putting through insurance claims. And even if you don’t have flood insurance, some people might be covered through their homeowner’s policies.
“Get in touch with your insurance carriers,” he said. “There are a lot of very specific rules and regulations about how things have to be inspected, things they can do, can’t do, They’re very heavily regulated in that regard so we make sure they’re following those rules. They have to have people out here seeing homes within a certain period of time, seeing claims, seeing cars, making evaluations on a timely basis. Part of our job is to make sure they are out there being responsive to homeowners.”
They will also be making assessments of the scope of the damage and making recommendations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“We want to see them come here,” Haggerty said of FEMA. “We want to see their money here.”
Department of Financial Services representatives will be available in the Mobile Command Center until 8 p.m. Aug. 14 in Islip, at the Islip Town Hall Parking Lot located at 401 Main Street. In addition, those who are not able to visit the Mobile Command Center can call the Department’s Disaster Hotline at 1-800-339-1759 for help with insurance-related issues. The Department of Financial Services is extending the operating hours for the hotline this week, making it available today, Thursday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Residents can report unresolved flooding conditions to Islip Town’s Emergency Operations Center at 631-595-3595.
Other important numbers:
• FEMA (federal flood assistance); 1-800-621-3362
• NYS Office of Emergency Management; 1-518-457-2200
• Suffolk Office of Emergency Management; 1-631-852-4900
• Suffolk Price Gauging; 1-800-909-5423
• PSEG (power outages and electrical matters); 1-800-490-0075
• National Grid (natural gas); 1-800-490-0045
• American Red Cross; 631-924-6700
• American Red Cross; (Spanish Speaking); 1-800-257-7575