New Yorkers who cherish Fire Island as an idyllic summertime getaway are crediting a carefully maintained wall of protective dunes with taking the brunt of Superstorm Sandy's fury.
The wall of water swamped nearly the entire 32-mile-long barrier island off Long Island. It destroyed or washed away nearly 200 homes and scraped the sand dunes down to nothing.
But more than 4,000 structures survived. Dozens of them appear uninhabitable without major repair work. Some places sit on stilts, naked to the ocean waves. Others are covered in muck several inches deep.
The work of replacing sand dunes that washed away in the storm is already under way. Workers are scooping up sand from the streets, putting it in bags and piling it up where the dunes once stood.