Local Firefighters Repay Downstate Debt

By Dave Greber

November 2, 2012 Updated Nov 4, 2012 at 10:43 AM EDT

Long Beach, NY (WBNG Binghamton)  It's been four days for residents of Long Beach. Four trying days for a community still in tatters.

Businesses remain shuttered, houses continue to seep into sand-blown streets.

Approaching Long Beach from the north, the damage is evident. Buildings are completely ripped apart, and boats, once floating in the water several miles away, are parked inland on the streets.

Two commodities are scarce but in high demand: gas for cars and generators and electricity.

Cell phone service is intermittent at best – that's if the device has power – adding to a mounting frustration among residents who are growing cold and impatient.

“It hurts man,” said a tearful 50 year resident Sheldon Dendy, who's now homeless. “You never know how it feels until you get it. I got it now.”

Members of several Southern Tier fire departments are in Long Beach and surrounding communities including Sidney, Union Center, Kirkwood, Conklin, Franklin, Arkville, Stamford, Vestal and the town of Binghamton.

They're among the thousands of first responders in the area. Except in their case, local crews are donating their time not for pay, but for payback.“It's a good feeling knowing we can help out,” said Union Center Fire Department First Assistant Chief Chris Hoyt. “This town got wrecked pretty bad, and it just brings back memories of last year in Broome County.”

Sidney Fire Chief Gregory Peck agreed.

“They did it for us. It's a brotherhood. They put the call out, and I think one brotherhood looks at another ... they're there. That's just the way we are.”

It's the same for residents all across the island: Basements ruined, cars now worthless. Garbage is strewn about the streets and trees down, into houses in some cases.

It's a story the Twin Tiers wrote a little more than one year ago.

Same storm, different name.


In the dark, there's only waiting


As night falls on Long Beach and Long Island Wednesday, following another long and tumultuous day, still more than 640,000 people are in the dark. They wait until work can begin anew.

Longtime beachfront resident Michael Weiss spent his Wednesday evening digging out a woman's car that had tried and failed to negotiate the four feet of new sand the ocean felt would be better served 100 yards from its edge.

He dug in the dark with little luck. And instead of cursing the latest named storm, he praised the town and its people, and found resolve at the end of a shovel.

“We're spent. After a few days, but there's a lot of togetherness,” Weiss said. “If you've been around town you've seen people help each other. It's tough man. We're under water and we're digging. It's no different from the trials and tribulations of everywhere, but this is our moment."

Though the streets were eerily quiet Wednesday evening, the Long Beach fire station along Maple Street was bustling.

It wasn't the occasional call to a dark street, but the nearly two dozen men from all reaches of New York, who have turned a fire house into a home.

“We know we gotta work together and we do the best we can,” said Gregory Pemberton, Conklin's first assistant chief. “We're here helping these people down here. We got help in 2006 and last year for the floods. So we're here helping them back.”

Each of the departments that traveled south from the Southern Tier are volunteer operation, meaning they're not paid for the 72 hour shift they'll work before they return home.