By Alex Petroski & Kyle Barr
Those strolling through Port Jefferson Village on the morning of Sept. 26 couldn’t stride too far without hearing the distinct sound of Shop-Vacs. The area was hit with more than 4 inches of rain during the evening into the night Sept. 25, according to the National Weather Service, leading to severe flooding in Port Jefferson Village.
The intense rain storm flooded businesses, the Port Jefferson Fire Department and even forced emergency evacuations from Theatre Three. Fire department Chief Brennan Holmes said water levels on the department’s grounds on Maple Place reached about 5 feet high.
“The problem with this was it was 4 inches of rain in an hour and a half, so it rose so quickly that a chief’s car got stuck in a flash flood, we couldn’t get the trucks out,” he said Wednesday morning as cleanup efforts were already well underway. He added he had just spoken to Brookhaven Town Highway Superintendent Dan Losquadro (R), whose department was helping out with the cleanup effort. “I think we took 10 people out of flooded cars.”
Christian Neubert, a member of the fire department, said around 8 p.m. Tuesday night people were trapped in their cars in the vicinity of Wynn Lane, as well as others on Liberty Avenue near Port Jefferson High School. Holmes said between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. the department responded to 14 alarms related to the flooding.
In addition to damage to at least one department car, Holmes said the radio room also flooded, sustaining damage that was still being assessed Wednesday.
“We had a lot of stuff damaged,” Holmes said. “Usually [some flooding is] easily mitigated. We’re good with that. We get the trucks out and up the hill. This just came so fast and so quick and so much that it was tough.”
Theatre Three was inundated with water during the storm. The deluge left a watermark 4 feet high in the theater’s basement, high enough to nearly pour over the bar and stools used for the theater’s comedy nights.
Theatre Three president, Andrew Markowitz, said the flooding started around 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25. The water reached high enough to muddy the costumes and props the theater was to use in this upcoming Friday’s production of “The Addams Family,” many of which will have to be quickly replaced. Worse still, much of the theater’s lighting apparatus was stored downstairs, and personnel were still determining what needed to be repaired or replaced Wednesday.
“We have a lot of volunteers who are helping out, but anyone who wants to come down and clean they are welcome,” Markowitz said.
The office on a lower floor used by Jeffrey Sanzel, the theater’s executive artistic director, was nearly submerged. The small office contained innumerable books, original stage scripts and stage props, many of which Sanzel said were completely ruined by the rushing waters. He estimated several thousand dollars worth of items were destroyed. However, their loss means much more to him on a personal level.
“I spend more time in that office than I do in my own house, and everything in my desk, from my shelves down, is gone,” Sanzel said, his pants stained with mud. “The personal stuff — it’s just gone, I’ve never seen it like this. But then again, we could be in the Carolinas, you have to put things in proportion.”
At the same time the theater was hosting about 40 children and their families in auditions for its yearly portrayal of “A Christmas Carol.” Since the kids had nowhere to go with the several-foot-deep waters outside, Sanzel said they simply continued on with the auditions in order to keep the kids calm.
Holmes indicated that while the flooding was catastrophic, it occurred during low tide. When asked what this storm might have looked like had it happened during high tide, the chief responded, “We don’t want to know.”
Markowitz said Theatre Three is still waiting for the assessment on total damages, but he feared the cost could be astronomical. He said the theater would work hard over the next days to make sure the production of “The Addams Family” goes on, despite the flooding.
“The show must go on,” he said.
Donations are already pouring in, and theater operators said they have received close to $5,000 just in the morning hours after the flood.
For more information, go to the website: www.theatrethreetickets.com/donations.