SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) -- Property owners in the eroding, shore-side village of Matunuck continue to clean up and rebuild, but the owner of a landmark bar and grill sees a glimmer of hope following Sandy's historic assault.
"It's the worst I've ever seen," Kevin Finnegan says, describing the storm as carpenters patch up a few holes in his stilted Ocean Mist.
Only one of those crags was created by Monday's historically strong wind and lunar high tide.
"I think a wave came up and just popped this little piece here," he says while he points to a still wet patch of plywood near the front corner of the bar.
Finnegan decided to repair a few other areas in his tavern that's been worn down by decades of pounding from waves out of Block Island Sound.
"I think this is a wake up call for everybody," he says. "If they want the village of Matunuck to be here."
Finnegan believes crowds that come from across New England are proof ‘they' do want a more secure Matunuck. He has often taken the lead in the decades-old debate over how to protect a strip of property that includes his livelihood and a competing pub, along with about seven homes.
Those nine structures are worth about $10 million according to Finnegan, who adds that the town gets a cut of his profits as well as property taxes.
Next door, Tara Mulroy's Joyce Family Pub has been brazenly described as ‘the kind of place where folks open the doors to let the hurricanes through'. But no one needed to turn a knob for Sandy.
Mulroy walks over her concrete floor that was just shoveled free of Matunuck sand and Atlantic water. With the last of the grit crunching under her rain boots, she points out a new ocean view through a freshly punched hole in her back wall. In front of the gap, there's a collapsed set of stairs.
"Concrete steps that mother ocean took away from us. Absolutely," she says in a melodic Irish accent.
Up the road, DPW trucks and front end loaders are removing a dozen piles of ten-foot high manmade dunes of sand that was swept up after it washed through a fence next to Matunuck Beach Road. Just behind the now shrinking piles is the 50-year-old sea wall that's been the focus of many years of debate.
"At least 20 years," Mulroy says.
Finnegan was willing to "go down with his ship", or at least ride out the storm until just before 6:30 on Monday night. That was about two hours before high tide.
"We (Finnegan and his friend Mike Couchie) were on the dance floor and just the sound of the plywood popping up made us say, whoa!" he explains. "We said, time to leave. See you later. And that's when we met you."
Eyewitness News had been up the road on Matunuck Point, covering the storm. Soaked by a glancing blow from a wave that ricocheted off a sea wall, the road was beginning to flow with salt water. We drove to higher ground which turned out to be Finnegan's parking lot.
"If you stay here," he said at the time. "You might not get out."
He guided us to a parking lot across the street where four of us were marooned, waiting for the tide to ebb and flow.
"The last time I was stuck here," Finnegan explained. "Was 1991, ‘The Perfect Storm'."
As he reflects on this more recent bout with the weather in front of the Ocean Mist's million dollar view, he calculates how quickly Sandy energized.
"It was stormy, but relatively safe, and then it just seemed to come on like somebody turned up the volume, so to speak."
They're used to patching holes and shoveling sand off floors here and even living on stilts that are sometimes hammered by waves that rake away sand.
"All of our customers have been coming in and out and they're in bad shape themselves," Mulroy says. "So it's amazing, the community down here, which is why we love it."
What they don't love is the seemingly endless debate over where to continue the rock sea wall that stops about 800 feet from the Ocean Mist's back deck. Finnegan tells us that the gaps in the rocks are home to a family of foxes, one of which scampers across the sand and under his building while we talk.
But the same wall does nothing to shelter the stretch of nine structures The state's proposal has been to protect the road, leaving Tara's, The Ocean Mist and the seven other properties exposed to the damaging storms along with the daily grind of waves. The property owners have pitched building the wall between the water and their structures.
"There are easier restrictions for town property as opposed to private property," Finnegan says, explaining why the state's idea makes sense to some. "But I think looking at this, it's not common sense to let property go."
"We're willing to put in money to protect ourselves," Mulroy adds. "We're not allowed to even do that."
Now, they're hoping Sandy's best punches, might erode the red tape in the way of finally continuing the wall between the ocean and their properties.
"If common sense prevailed, I think that would be it," Finnegan says, more hopeful than he's been in years past. "Maybe cut a little bit of the red tape and do the common
The death of a 78-year-old grandfather who was left paralyzed after a home invasion has been ruled a homicide and police say two suspects will be charged with murder.
James Adams, 32, was indicted last week in the murder of 20-year-old Mary Grier in Cranston.
Two Cranston Brothers are honoring the memory of the lives lost in the tragic school shooting in Newtown last year in their own special way.
Rhode Island could see its first significant snowfall this weekend. According to Eyewitness News Meteorologists, parts of the state could see six inches or more of snow.
WPRI.com and Eyewitness News have the vital resources you need so you're prepared when winter weather hits.