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Long Island residents frustrated by power outages

By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Nearly 350,000 homes and businesses on Long Island were without power on Monday as workers cleared hundreds of trees downed by Hurricane Irene, fixed boardwalks and replenished beaches denuded of sand.

In Long Beach, a barrier island community on the south side of Long Island hard hit by the storm on Sunday, sand several feet deep was swept into the sea or dumped further inland.

"It looked like a dried-out baseball field," Kevin Mulligan, commissioner of public works for the City of Long Beach, said as workers cleared and sieved large piles of sand for its eventual return to the waterfront.

"This is the worst we've seen it in 20 or 30 years," he said.

Local officials said their priority was clearing fallen trees off major roads but in many cases could only do so once the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) determined there were no dangerous or downed power lines.

Both Long Island counties -- Nassau and Suffolk -- said the damage done was less than had been feared. The only reported death was a man who went windsurfing as the storm arrived, and there were no reports of serious injuries.

But people remained frustrated by the power outages.

"If your lights are on, you're happy. If they're not, you're miserable," said Steve Levy, Suffolk County chief executive.

He said LIPA had assured him that at least half of the county's residents affected by power outages would have their electricity back by Tuesday afternoon.

LIPA did not respond to a request for information about the restoration efforts.

In Nassau County, drivers were warned to take extra care on the roads as many traffic lights remained dark.

Residents in coastal areas, many of whom had been ordered to evacuate ahead of the storm, were pumping water of basements and ground floors.

A mobile van from the state Department of Financial Services was traveling to the worst-hit areas to help residents file insurance claims.

The Nassau County Consumer Affairs Office was investigating a few reports of price-gouging on gasoline and water, according to a spokeswoman.

While many beaches remained closed, officials said they should all reopen in coming days, in time for the Labor Day weekend, one of the busiest times for waterfront businesses.

The Allegria Hotel in Long Beach said even with two feet of water flooding its lobby, it remained open throughout the storm, hosting journalists covering the storm.

"It did make a mess, but we're clearing it up and it's looking pretty good," said manager Ingrid Dodd.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Peter Bohan)

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