Like much of the south shore of Long Island, pieces of Wantagh's Jones Beach State Park were washed away last Monday as Superstorm Sandy barrelled across the east coast.
Jones Beach State Park Director Susan Guliani started her job with the New York State Parks Department 35 years ago. Guliani helped rebuild the seaside property through Hurricane Gloria and Hurricane-turned Tropical Storm Irene, but she said the aftermath of Sandy simply could not compare.
"The biggest issue here is the damage to our boardwalk," said Guliani, who was forced to evacuate her beachside home during the worst of the storm. "The height of the water and the amount of water that pushed under the boardwalk caused extensive damage."
"The boardwalk is heaved, like a rollercoaster effect, and several buildings are gone," she added. "Pieces of buildings have floated down the boardwalk. This is much worse than we expected. I've never seen it this bad before."
The beach experienced quite a bit of flooding last August during Irene and just fully recovered this past April. Right now, Guliani said, recovery is looking like a much longer journey, especially on the east side.
"The damage seems to be more extensive in the east end of the park compared to the west side," Guliani explained. "The western fields have more dunes by the buildings which served as a bit of a barrier for the storm."
Also suffering greatly from last week's storm was the famed Nikon at Jones Beach Theater, which houses dozens of musical acts each summer.
"The VIP boardwalk is gone and the area's deck and floors are ruined,"Guliani said. "The main orchestra was flooded almost three quarters of the way up and a lot of debris has deposited. The tunnel that connects the front stage to the back stage was also flooded nearly to the ceiling."
As a staple in the Long Island community, Guliani said park officials will work dilligently to restore the theater in time for the 2013 season.
"It's a very important part of Jones Beach and the Long Island and New York City communities," she said. "People love to come to shows here. I think a lot of resources will have to be put in in order to get it up and running by next summer but it's important it gets done."
Workers returned to the park last Wednesday to assess the damage, but with the winter season approaching, staff is at a minimum.
"We had about 12 workers here Wednesday and a total of 40 here on Thursday," Guliani said. "We're starting to clean up what we can for now. It's unsafe conditions for volunteers right now, but certainly at some point we will be seeking help."
Ocean Parkway is still closed off to the public as of Monday and Guliani is unsure when the road will reopen.