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In Babylon Village, Hurricane Sandy unites a boating community

October 31, 2012|By Brian Bennett
  • Freddie Nocella Jr. helps to salvage belongings from his grandparents' heavily damaged home in the aftermath of super storm Sandy in Babylon Village, N.Y.
Freddie Nocella Jr. helps to salvage belongings from his grandparents'… (Jason DeCrow / Associated…)

BABYLON VILLAGE, N.Y. -- The Sea Baby's stuck. The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy tossed the 25-foot fishing boat into a pile of 40 boats at the Suffolk Marine Center on Sumpwams Creek, a slender finger of water that reaches into Long Island from the Atlantic Ocean.

Jimmy Luttieri, the manager of the marina, and a crew of eight volunteers and stragglers are trying to hoist the Sea Baby out of the pile.

This is what the cleanup looks like on the southern shore of Long Island. Foot-deep water still pools in low pockets of neighborhoods. Basements still have shoulder-deep water where the electricity needed to run sump pumps is out. Refrigerators, soaked couches and saltwater-logged ovens are piled on the curb of homes as residents begin to clean up from the wall of water that Hurricane Sandy brought through this community.

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At the boat pile in the Suffolk Marine Center, a neighbor who owns the North Shore Crane Co. sent one of his 100-foot cranes over to help out. The machine was fresh from a construction job in Manhattan. Other old buddies in the neighborhood came by and lent a hand pulling on ropes, setting shims and tilting boats onto trailers.

"We don't need the government, we just need people to help out," Luttieri said.

Amy Dottinger watched as Sea Baby was lowered onto a boat trailer. She was born in this small fishing community on the south shore of Long Island and grew up knowing the tide charts as well as the network TV schedule. They are used to handling brutal Atlantic storms here.

But not like this one.

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That is why Dottinger, 39, a store manager at an American Eagle clothing store nearby, knew the town was in trouble Monday night as the powerful storm hit at peak high tide. Water rose quickly up the creek and she saw eight feet of water flow into her backyard.

Dottinger said her sister is trying to drive up to Long Island from Virginia to help clean up their family home, and perhaps pick up their 76-year-old father.

Meanwhile, Dottinger and her boyfriend are getting by without power, although she is afraid the flood could change forever the community where she grew up.

"This is a boating community," Dottinger said. "Boats are gone. The water will be messed up for a long time with oil and gas."

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Brian.Bennett@latimes.com

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