[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIjQH2qO2Xc?feature=player_embedded%5D

“I think we all can agree we’re seeing complete and utter devastation,” Brendan Gallagher says, standing in front of the charred remains of his childhood home.

Just a short drive from New York City’s famous Rockaway beaches, Breezy Point, Queens, is a quaint seaside hamlet where many cops and firefighters come to retire. It’s a place known for charming historic bungalows and sweeping ocean views, but on Monday night, it quickly became the setting for some of Hurricane Sandy’s most terrifying damage.

As a massive storm surge swept in with the gale-force winds, an as-yet-unknown source sparked a fire that, according to New York City Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano, ultimately leveled more than 100 homes — luckily, most residents heeded early evacuation warnings and no one was killed. Today, locals waded back in through still-receding flood waters to assess the damage while firefighters — some off-duty, picking through the wreckage of friends’ and neighbors’ homes — tamped down the smoldering ruins.

This story was produced by Mother Jones as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.