A pulse of excitement permeated Fire Island National Seashore on Monday. Crews that have been dismantling damaged boardwalk at the lighthouse and in the Otis Pike High Dune Wilderness Area for the past several weeks finished their work and transitioned to a new location and assignment.
The 18-member Rocky Mountain crew includes members of the Alpine Hot Shots and other park staff. They joined Crew #17, made up of employees from numerous parks, at Sailor’s Haven on the north shore of the island for the new assignment.
In addition to NPS facilities, an estimated 2,200 island homes were damaged, resulting in large debris piles of vegetation and “dimensional lumber”—pieces of boats, docks and houses. The crew will be tackling tasks such as clearing debris and sand left by the storm. They arrive and depart the island on a special ferry that transports them to the worksite.
The crew expects be on the island for approximately two weeks to complete stabilization. Due to the large amount of debris, heavy equipment – consisting of two large dump trucks, two excavators, and two frontend loaders – will be used at the site. The debris will be transported from the island by barge at a later time.
Hurricane Sandy brought 80 mph winds to the island and a storm surge of over 10 feet, drastically changing the landscape of the island. Several areas along the spine of dunes that run along the south shore were flattened, creating a wider beach area but removing the physical barrier that protects the island and shore along the Great South Bay of Long Island.
The lighthouse remains closed until spring for continued stabilization. The Wilderness Area Visitor Center is open Friday-Monday from 9 am to 4:30 pm and will resume public programs this month.