Local firefighters and other volunteers took a convoy of supplies to the ravished Rockaways Saturday and left stunned at the carnage wrought by Hurricane Sandy.
"Absolute devastation," reported John Claflin, the chief of the Springs Fire Department. "I didn't see Katrina but I imagine it was like this."
Claflin, Fist Assistant Chief Ben Miller, Chris Harmon, Tim Weber and Dawn Green led the Springs contingent. They met up with Montauk and Amagansett firefighters and headed west. A police escort allowed the seven vehicles to reach the Rockaways.
"The ocean went right through to the bay," Claflin said. "One house caught fire and the whole block went up – the fire department couldn't get there to help them."
"It's something you never forget," said Harmon, who drove his own panel truck in. The volunteers brought about $10,000 of goods donated by local businesses.
Lowe's in Riverhead gave them two brand new chain saws and cleaning supplies worth over $1200, Claflin noted. Wal-Mart, "opened their doors to us," Harmon said.
One Source Tool in Southampton donated nail guns, demolition hammers, saws and the like. Power Equipment Plus, Springs Hardware, K-Mart, CVS, Southampton Lumber, and many more donated. Harmon is compiling a full list of those who contributed.
There is still no electricity or water. People are putting the contents of their houses out on the street in dumpsters which are then carted away. Cars, many of which were completely covered with water, have been moved out of the way to help facilitate the cleanup. The Marines and National Guard are patrolling the area.
"People don't realize how bad it was," Claflin said. "If it hit us here Main Beach in East Hampton would have come up to Main Street."
Those wishing to contribute should know, Claflin said, "They look like they have plenty of clothes."
The local volunteers brought generators, shovels, dog food and pet carriers – pets are a major concern in the wake of the disaster.
The scene is still chaotic 10 days after the storm hit.
"It's complete gridlock," Claflin said.
"You see boats in the middle of the street," Harmon added.