First district town councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld and acting Brookhaven supervisor Kathy Walsh on Wednesday toured Stony Brook and Setauket to survey the damage, observing the effects of Hurricane Sandy in each of the hamlets and their neighborhoods: uprooted trees and downed wires – often in combination with one other – and evidence that the waters of local harbors and bays had breached their normal shorelines.
But Fiore-Rosenfeld had one more observation, too, after making the rounds in the Three Village area.
"Ultimately, we're stronger than the storm," he said. "Overall, I think we've weathered it."
At West Meadow Beach, Fiore-Rosenfeld made an observation based on two days of observations since the storm ended: "There does seem to be some erosion along the shoreline here ... Clearly [the water] got to Trustees Road, though it could have also come from the creek side."
Trustees Road fared as expected – flooded. The road had recently been raised in a capital project to prevent just that during normal rainstorms and unusually high tidal cycles. "This road would flood like this twice a month. Now it doesn't," Fiore-Rosenfeld said. "It's pretty effective. But then there's a hurricane. What are you going to do?"
In the neighborhood of Stony Brook Village, Fiore-Rosenfeld and Walsh stopped to chat with Judy Estes, president of the Three Village Historical Society, who was nearly trapped in her home on Main Street by a large tree that had fallen in front of her house.
"It was really scary," said Estes, who added that the tree came down Monday at about 6 p.m. and took an entire utility pole with it. Before that another tree, close to the intersection of Main Street and Route 25A, had fallen away from her property. "It sounded like an explosion, and then something burst into flames," she said.
A drive down Christian Avenue – a somewhat narrow road to begin with – revealed several places that had likely been completely blocked off by fallen trees before people began clearing them.
A bit south of the corner of Old Town Road, Main Street, and Route 25A in Setauket, two splintered utility poles lay crossing the roadway: one pole with a deeply weathered appearance, the other with an unfinished newness about it, but both snapped like dry twigs in the gusty hands of Hurricane Sandy. And just feet away stood the cracked stump of what had been a large, old tree – clearly rotted on the inside, now that its inside has been exposed – which had likely been the downfall of at least one of these two lost utility poles. Here, though, Fiore-Rosenfeld paused to defend Mother Nature.
"We're in a neighborhood that cares about our trees," he said. "We'd encourage LIPA to think about that, for the analysis of big trees that can knock out our infrastructure. You need to specialize wherever possible. We don't want them taking down trees that don't have to come down."
While some neighborhoods seemed to have their own particular challenges based on their topography, geography, and traffic, Fiore-Rosenfeld summed it up by saying there's one common problem throughout.
"The biggest problem in our neighborhood is the same as everybody's biggest problem," he said. "When is the power coming back?"