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Fire Commissioner: 'We Dodged a Bullet'

No injuries, no substantial property damage from Hurricane Irene, city officials say

Long Beach escaped Hurricane Irene’s wrath in pretty good shape, with no storm-related injuries and no substantial damage to any properties, city officials said.

“We honestly dodged a bullet here,” said Scott Kemins, Long Beach building commissioner and fire commissioner. “This storm was worse than [Hurricane] Gloria [in 1985]. This storm could have been so much worse.

“We lucked out, we really did,” he added.

He said 3,000 residents were still without power as of Monday morning and may not get their electricity back until the end of the week.

Comprehensive planning by city and county officials helped avert a potential disaster, Kemins said.

“There was a lot of planning involved which lessened the impact,” said Kemins, who added that he slept on an Army cot at City Hall for 36 hours before, during and after the storm, as did other city officials. “It was a group effort.”

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano ordered the mandatory evacuation of Long Beach, as well as other areas of the county. Long Beach residents were told they had from 6 p.m. Friday until 5 p.m. Saturday to leave their homes.

“They had about 24 hours to leave and the evacuation was very orderly,” said Kemins, adding that at least 50 percent heeded the evacuation order.

About 300 city residents took advantage of shelters that were set up at Nassau Community College and SUNY Farmingdale.

“The residents listened to the warnings with the majority evacuating, and those that didn’t, did well to prepare their homes, and the business community secured their property,” said Lenny Remo, assistant to the city manager.

City Manager Charles Theofan lifted the evacuation order on Sunday afternoon.

“A lot of residents came back yesterday and others are coming back today,” said Kemins.

The Long Beach Fire Department responded to two storm-related fires, including one on West Park, during which firefighters were standing in three feet of water in the street to battle the blaze. All three city fire departments were fully manned until 11 p.m. Sunday, said Kemins, who is also a fire commissioner.

The storm surge tossed the lifeguard chairs around and the lifeguard station was knocked off its moorings and pushed into the boardwalk. In anticipation that it would be damaged during the hurricane, all electronic equipment such as radios and computers was removed beforehand.

Remo said Long Beach sustained beach erosion, and there remained some standing water on the streets, but when the floods receded, “it did not come back at all.

A temporary headquarters at National Boulevard has been established until officials can put the station back on its foundation.

“Right now we’re in the cleanup mode and we’re assessing the damage,” said Kemins. “A lot of people are still pumping out their basements.”

He said the highway department, sanitation and beach maintenance crews are hard at work trying to restore the city back to the pre-Irene stages.

“They are getting rid of [fallen] trees and debris, returning Long Beach to the way it was before the storm,” he said.

He said residents are making the recovery efforts even more painless.

“Everyone is pitching in,” said Kemins.

He said as he stayed put at City Hall, he sent his family and in-laws to the Residence Inn in Plainview to ride out the storm. Since the evacuation was lifted, his relatives have been staying at his house, which never lost power.

“My house looks like a refugee camp,” he said.

The Man with the Plan August 29, 2011 at 09:38 PM
I want to give a special thanks to one of the many brave firemen in this town, Anthony F. He is an asset to this city and does more for this town that some politicians.
Meghan August 31, 2011 at 01:24 AM
Thank you. Then what's all this about: http://longbeach.patch.com/articles/open-letter-from-city-manager-long-beach-suffered-major-damage Underhanded and bizarre = Long Beach. Thank yous, however, to all of the LBPD, LBFD, and LBAPD and all the others who actually "weathered" the storm.

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