Only 80 or 90 miles from Shelter Island, there have been thousands of people struggling with Third World conditions: no homes, no heat, no power, food from relief handouts and only the clothes they wore or carried out when the tidal surge hit last Monday, October 29.
It was quite another story here on the Island: a few days without power, some downed trees, one sailboat aground, some docks chewed up in West Neck and elsewhere, the road to Shell Beach broken up again, the Ram Island Causeway needing some work and some shoreline erosion in exposed areas. The waterfront properties on the bay just above Reel Point, for example, took a serious beating.
But compared to places like the Rockaways, Long Beach and Island Park in Queens and shorefront communities in New Jersey, Shelter Island got lucky. We had a close call. Sandy was a devastating superstorm for waterfront communities closer to its center — not so much because of its Category I hurricane-force winds but because the vast system that spanned 900 miles pushed up a monumental storm surge that happened to hit at the full-moon high tide.
There are Shelter Islanders with some family connections to those devastated New York metro area communities to the west and south. The Rando family of Sweet Tomato’s fame have a still-intact home in Long Beach and a business, now gutted, in Island Park. Ms. Rando’s and her son Jimi’s accounts of the destruction and disrupted lives they’ve witnessed really hit home in a way the TV news and even newspaper coverage, except for Newsday, have missed.
With the help of shop owner Marie Eiffel and the manager of Sunset Beach, Steven Jauffrineau, Jimi Rando has been running donated clothes and supplies into Island Park. According to his mother Mary, the gifts of clothing — including Ms. Eiffel’s own high-end inventory from her Shelter Island and Sag Harbor shops — have helped many. What they need most now are cleaning supplies such as paper towels and spray cleansers.
Donations at last report were still being accepted at Ms. Eiffel’s shop and on the porch of Ms. Rando’s house at 19 St. Mary’s Road.
Other Islanders have helped, too. Police Officer Tom Cronin, who did so much to pull off the recent Honor Flight mission to take Island veterans to Washington, drove a trailer of donated supplies collected by his wife Susan here, and by others in East Hampton and in Riverhead, to the affected area with the help of Police Officer Terrance LeGrady.
North Ferry Captains Don Young and Nick Gross have run their own collection efforts. Nurse Mary Kanarvogel at the school is helping to coordinate a collection effort there through the PTSA.
This tragedy hit very close to home. If the center of Sandy had not made that hard left turn on Monday about 150 miles south of us, we’d be living different, very disrupted lives. That’s not why Islanders are helping others in a time of crisis. That’s just what they do.