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Partly Cloudy,89°
Monday, September 1, 2014

Stopping the ocean in a hurricane –– or not
(Page 2 of 2)
Scott Brinton/Herald
During Hurricane Sandy, a 10-foot tidal surge raced up the canal that leads to Cammans Pond in south Merrick, scattering floating docks, personal watercraft and boats and causing flooding on local streets. Storm-drain flapper valves would have done nothing to stop that surge, said Brian Schneider, deputy commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Public Works.

Schneider pointed out that Nassau does not own most of the storm drains throughout the county. It owns the larger “trunk” lines, while the towns and cities, which have varying budgets and debt levels, own the rest. Installing drain flaps, Schneider said, would cost millions of dollars –– funding that would be hard to come by in these times of fiscal restraint.

Finally, Schneider said, Nassau’s storm drains are not sewer lines, which are separate –– unlike New York City, where storm drains and sewer lines feed into the same system.

Sewer lines connect to one of two sewage-treatment plants –– Bay Park and Cedar Creek. In western Nassau, Bay Park was overrun by floodwaters and experienced a catastrophic failure, causing sewer lines to back up into people’s homes and onto streets.

In eastern Nassau, however, Cedar Creek held up in the storm, and sewage did not back up. That is not to say, though, that no residents in eastern Nassau had sewage backups in their homes. If a home had a toilet on a flooded first floor or basement, the floodwaters may have opened up an already inundated sewer line into the house, causing a backup.

In the end, Schneider said, any home that is in a federally designated flood zone –– that is, any home below seven feet above sea level –– could be flooded during a major storm.

“If you’re below elevation seven,” he said, “you’re going to be at risk.”

All that a homeowner can do, it appears, is to prepare as thoroughly as possible –– sandbagging around entryways to the home and boarding up windows –– and hope for the best.

Herald staffers have written hundreds of stories focusing on Hurricane Sandy and its continuing aftermath. To see more of them, visit www.liherald.com/sandy or scan the box at right with your smartphone.

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