BRIGHTON BEACH — Lines snaked down Brighton Beach Avenue Wednesday as flood-soaked stores reopened for the first time since the Hurricane Sandy, the storm worst in the city's history, tore through the area Monday night.
Sandy wrecked havoc on the Coney Island peninsula, tearing up houses in Seagate and leaving thousands without water or power in the city housing developments that line Mermaid Avenue behind the famed boardwalk.
High winds toppled trees and floodwaters inundated basements across Brighton Beach, where anxious residents lined up at payphones to contact relatives.
Despite blackouts that were expected to last through the end of the week, most stores along Brighton Beach's bustling commercial strip were dark but open Wednesday morning.
Shoppers at Tel Aviv Fruit Market waited under generator-powered lights, while those at Gourmet Specialty Food browsed the aisles by flashlight.
"That’s how it’s supposed to be," said resident Ivan Palamarenko, 23. "I’ve been to Coney Island — it’s worse than here."
Lines of men with buckets baled out flooded basements, while employees tried to salvage what they could from the muck.
"Everything for New Years (the Russian equivalent of Christmas) was in the basement — it’s too much," said Slava Varentsov, 56, a manager at St. Petersburg Book Store. "But we stayed alive, so it’s enough."
Like many of his neighbors, Varentsov remained close-by during the storm and rushed back as soon as he thought it was safe.
"These Russian people are very smart," he said. "They like their job, everybody wants to stay here."