Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hurricane Sandy - Then and Now

One year ago today, Hurricane Sandy thundered on to US shores,  wreaking mayhem and disaster in her wake. 

NOAA GOES-13 image of Sandy at 6:02 a.m. EDT Tuesday (Oct. 30).
Credit: NOAA/NASA GOES Project 

Origin of storm Sandy began as a tropical wave in the Caribbean on Oct. 19. It quickly developed, becoming a tropical depression and then a tropical storm in just six hours. Tropical Storm Sandy was the 18th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season. It was upgraded to a hurricane on Oct. 24 when its maximum sustained winds reached 74 mph (119 kph). 

Sandy tore through the Caribbean, making landfall at Jamaica on Oct. 24. After leaving that island, the storm gained strength over open water and became a Category 2. The storm hit Cuba early Oct. 25, then weakened to a Category 1. On Oct. 26, it swept across the Bahamas. Sandy briefly weakened to a tropical storm on Oct. 27, then gained strength again to become a Category 1 hurricane before turning north toward the U.S. coast. 

Sandy slams Jersey shore

 Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the United States about 8 p.m. EDT Oct. 29, striking near Atlantic City, N.J., with winds of 80 mph. A full moon made high tides 20 percent higher than normal and amplified Sandy's storm surge. Streets were flooded, trees and power lines knocked down and the city's famed boardwalk was ripped apart. Along the Jersey shore, people were left stranded in their homes and waited for rescue teams in boats to rescue them. More than 80 homes were destroyed in one fire in Queens. Several other fires were started throughout the New York metro area. 

Seawater surged over Lower Manhattan's seawalls and highways and into low-lying streets. The water inundated tunnels, subway stations and the electrical system that powers Wall Street and sent hospital patients and tourists scrambling for safety. Skyscrapers swayed and creaked in winds that partially toppled a crane 74 stories above Midtown. A large tanker ship ran aground on the city's Staten Island. As of Nov. 1, about 4.7 million people in 15 states were without electricity, down from nearly 8.5 million a day earlier. Subway tunnels in Lower Manhattan remained flooded,...

More here at  Live Science.


Many millions of dollars in damage was done to properties as Sandy cut a wide swath across America.  Although exact figures are still not known, the death toll was also devastating:

Sandy killed nearly 110 people in the United States and an additional 72 people that lived in the Caribbean and Canada. The total death count is still uncertain as of today as some reports assert that the death toll is higher in the United States.

Sandy was responsible for nearly $65 billion (U.S) dollars in damage.

Satellite image of Sandy shortly before landfall on October 29, 2012. Image via NASA/GSFC Hurricanes vary in size and intensity, but Hurricane Sandy spread tropical storm winds over 900 miles, and typical systems are roughly 200 to 400 miles across.  (EarthSky)

Hurricane Sandy showed no mercy, no discrimination, and the world watched as heartbreaking pictures emerged.  From The Telegraph of the UK:

Sea water floods the Ground Zero construction site in New York  Picture: AP Photo/ John Minchillo

This aerial view, taken during a search and rescue mission by 1-150 Assault Helicopter Battalion, shows the damage caused by Superstorm Sandy to the New Jersey coast  Picture: REUTERS/Mark C. Olsen/U.S. Air Force

 A still taken from a surveillance camera capturing footage of water engulfing an underground station in Hoboken, N.J.  Picture: AP Photo/Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The Plaza along Water Street in lower Manhattan is flooded after Superstorm Sandy hit New York City  Picture: EPA/JUSTIN LANE

 Rising water, caused by Superstorm Sandy, rushes into a subterranean parking garage in the Financial District of New York  Picture: Andrew Burton/Getty Images

 Streets are flooded under the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, N.Y.  
Picture: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

A 'keep off the dunes' sign is buried in Cape May, NJ, after a storm surge from superstorm Sandy pushed the Atlantic Ocean over the beach and into the streets  Picture: Mel Evans/AP

An emergency worker carries an elderly resident from flood waters brought on by Superstorm Sandy in Little Ferry, New Jersey   Picture: REUTERS/Adam Hunger

An ambulance is stuck in over a foot of snow near Belington, West Virginia. Superstorm Sandy buried parts of West Virginia under more than a foot of snow, cutting power to at least 264,000 customers and closing dozens of roads  .Picture: Robert Ray/AP

The pictures above are just an overview - a few - of  a series of photographs by the Telegraph, and while they give some sense of the overwhelming devastation, they don't come close to showing the impact on people's personal lives.

BBC ran a feature on November 3, 2012, just days after Hurricane Sandy:

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy continues to affect the US East Coast. 

Some 2.5 million homes and businesses still have no electricity. 

Petrol shortages have also caused forecourt confrontations from New Jersey to Connecticut.
BBC News website readers caught up in the devastation have been describing the difficulties they and those around them are facing.

Daphay Sanchez, Staten Island

Storm Sandy took us by surprise. We didn't expect to be hit hard and we didn't evacuate. When we realised our yard was flooded and more water was coming, it was too late to move. 

We had to climb on top of our roof to get away from the water as it started entering the house.
The power went off, it was pitch-dark and we were scared. We had to tie ourselves to each other, because the winds were very strong. 

I had my laptop with me and kept posting cries for help. We stayed on the roof for eight hours before we were rescued.

It was a terrible night. Many people in our neighbourhood lost their lives.

More on her story, and others, here...

Sadly, stories such as those were not unique.  Through the power of social media, many of us miles away got to witness (and in a few cases, share) some of these cries for help..  Throughout the night, we all witnessed First Responders facing incredible dangers as they didn't hesitate to rescue those most vulnerable.

An amazing video clip here: Hurricane Sandy: NY firefighter tells of Queens rescue  

Across social media , people around the world shared pleas for help from people who were trapped. Calls for volunteers went out via groups such as Rockaway Relief, Occupy Sandy Relief NJ
Occupy Sandy, Team Rubicon and many others.

Great article on Team Rubicon's initial efforts here. 

 One of the First Responders was police officer Robert Franco.  From Wayne Patch:

Injured Officer Returns to Light Duty a Year After Sandy

Officer Robert Franco was nearly killed when a tree fell on his patrol car during Superstorm Sandy.
Posted by
October 28, 2013

A year after he was nearly killed in a horrific accident during Superstorm Sandy, Officer Robert Franco is back on the job.

Franco nearly died when a tree fell and crushed his patrol car on Lake Drive West while responding to the scene of a ruptured gas line. 


“I thought I was going to die,” Franco said last December. “I said whatever prayers I could and thought of my family.”

Franco’s bulletproof vest was strangling him and there were live electrical wires around the vehicles. Powerful wind gusts blew down hundreds of trees throughout the township. The trees fell on top of vehicles and houses, many taking power lines with them. 

“For 26 years I’ve been involved in emergency services and in all that time, I’ve never seen anything like that,” Franco said.

It took paramedics an hour to remove Franco from the vehicle....

Much more here. 

Many, many others rushed into the fray, risking their own lives to serve those in their communities as they battled Mother Nature .  Most of them, we will never hear about, but to those they saved, they ARE all Heroes.


What of the politicians, the government agencies?  POTUS did a fly over NJ, and then did a photo-op with Gov. Christie.  (No, you don't need me to share any of those pictures.)  FEMA had updates on their own website. The usual major relief agencies called for donations:  

American Red Cross:

Posted December 19, 2012

The American Red Cross, which will spend an estimated $110 million by the end of December on Superstorm Sandy emergency relief, is working closely with government and community partners on longer-term recovery efforts for survivors.

The initial Red Cross recovery plan, developed in coordination with FEMA and other partners to identify and address unmet needs, is estimated to cost another $60 million. Any Sandy donation beyond what is used for emergency relief and this initial recovery plan will be used for other longer-term needs of those affected by this disaster....

More here.  

(Depending on who you talked to, and where they lived, stories varied as to how visible - or helpful, the Red Cross was on the ground. )

United Way on Long Island put out the call, and later released a report on their efforts to contribute, make a difference for those finding themselves adrift, homeless.

Long Island Harvest was just one food bank who sprang into action to fill the needs of  local residents who lost everything.

Thanksgiving was hard  for many communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy,  and local businesses donated turkeys etc to remind them that they were not overlooked.   From the Examiner:

Thanksgiving dinners delivered to Hurricane Sandy victims in NY

November 21, 2012

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that 3,085 boxes of traditional Thanksgiving dinners and 900 turkeys will be delivered to communities hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy. The Governor coordinated thousands of food items donated by Costco, Delta, ShopRite and Walmart to be packed and delivered by the National Guard to impacted New Yorkers in New York City, Long Island and the Lower Hudson Valley today.

This morning, Governor Cuomo visitws the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence, Nassau County at 11:00 AM and the Rockaway Point Fire Department in Breezy Point, Queens at 12:00 PM to help distribute dinners. In Breezy Point, the Governor greeted first responders with actor Steve Buscemi at a lunch hosted by the Friends of Firefighters non-profit organization. The Friends of Firefighters lunch was nearly cancelled but the Governor's Office arranged for the National Guard to help deliver supplies and prepare meals for the first responders.

“This Thanksgiving, we wanted to ensure that New Yorkers impacted by the storm can still celebrate the holiday with their loved ones,” Governor Cuomo said. “The generous contributions from Costco, Delta, ShopRite and Walmart made that possible for families in the hardest hit communities in the state. I thank our corporate partners for their continuing assistance which will provide the invaluable comfort of a Thanksgiving dinner to thousands of New Yorkers.”...

 Read the rest here.

One year on?  Not much in the msm throughout the past year, but the people directly impacted by Hurricane Sandy are still working to rebuild their shattered lives.

Of course, many news organisations are checking in with those they met in the direct aftermath.  THere is this video: Hurricane Sandy:  One Year Later from CBC The National 

From CBS New York is this:

Veterans, Other Volunteers Turn Out To Rebuild Nearly A Year After Sandy

Group Rebuilds Six Houses On Coney Island

 As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, over 200 veterans, along with other good-hearted people, took their weekend to rebuild six homes in the neighborhood.

“The reason that I volunteer is because it helps us to continue our service,” said U.S. Army veteran Elana Duffy, “and it’s a very similar feeling, almost, when you are out there and you realize that you’ve actually made a difference, and you’ve impacted somebody’s life.”

The volunteers are from the groups Rebuilding Together and Team Rubicon. They said the ability to help was an honor.

“Just seeing the impact that you do on people’s lives – I mean, they lost everything. Some of them lost family members,” said veteran Victor Londono. “And just to help them out any way you can, there’s no greater feeling than that.”...

 More on this story of Americans helping each other - plus an audio clip - here.

From The New York Times:

A Storm Still Felt

 A November 2012 photograph shows the block where Aidan White, story below, and his family lived.  Kirsten Luce for The New York Times

Published: October 27, 2013  

Kerry Price

Belle Harbor, N.Y. 
  1. We decided not to evacuate.

    We left for Irene and nothing — no water, no loss of electricity — just a night spent at my in-laws’ in an uncomfortable bed. 

    We knew this would be worse, but we felt safe staying. The kids watched movies, I made a beef stew and we played board games. It reminded me of the harmless power outages from my childhood, when we would all spend quality family-time together. It was nice. 

    Then the water broke through the garage door, folding it in half. 

    Around 7:40 p.m., the power went out. The kids went to bed, and we listened to the radio: when was high tide, when was low tide, was it over, was it just starting, had the eye passed? All we knew was it was bad and getting worse. 

    Kerry and Jim Price with their children, from left, Jake, 4; Kelsie, 8; Kiera, 10. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

    My husband noticed an orange glow out the window, a fire that looked about two blocks away - or was it? 

    Within about two hours, the fire was right across the street. Embers were crashing off the roof, the scent of smoke filled the house and we could hear the loud booms of wood snapping and burning. 

    There was a gas station on the corner. Would it blow? 

Much more on their story -  and others' -  here.

From USA Today, comes this written statement from President Obama:

Obama: We're recovering from Hurricane Sandy

 There are still some Americans who are struggling to pick up whatever pieces are left of their lives; who appear to have fallen through the cracks. 
From FOXDC comes this:

A year later, some Superstorm Sandy victims wonder if they’ll ever get their lives back

Oct 29, 2013

By the morning of Oct. 29, 2012, it was clear the East Coast would not be spared by the 1,100-mile storm system churning north through the Atlantic Ocean. Residents of seaside towns in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut evacuated. Homes and stores were boarded up. Schools were closed and flights canceled. Those who didn't make it to high ground hunkered down and waited.

Sandy's fury claimed 73 lives, caused $68 billion in damage and was felt in 24 states, from Florida to Maine and as far west as Wisconsin. In the ensuing weeks and months, aid workers and utility crews from all over the nation descended on the stricken area, helping victims and slowly restoring power to some 6 million homes. Yet many who found themselves in the mighty storm's path are still waiting a year later - waiting on insurance payments or government aid. Waiting to get their lives back.

 One year after Superstorm Sandy unleashed its fury on the East Coast, leaving a wake of destruction from New Jersey to New England, Michael Conacchio feels like a hostage in the bedroom of his ravaged home.
As Sandy pushed north along the New Jersey coastline, it sent seawater surging over dunes and boardwalks, and into the many inlets along the shoreline. Six feet of water rushed into the first floor of Conacchio's two-story home along Barnegat Bay estuary. When the waters receded, they left a wake of ruined furniture, soggy carpet and bulging sheetrock - and an uninhabitable first floor.
“For the past 12 months I’ve been living in my bedroom,” said Conacchio, 56, of Brick Township.

"There's mold throughout the first floor.”

Conacchio has plenty of company. New Jersey officials estimate that some 346,000 homes were destroyed or damaged by Sandy. And as of last month, in Ocean County alone, 26,000 people were still displaced. People who spoke to FoxNews.com said their anger is reserved for low-balling insurance agents, FEMA workers who won't listen and a host of rules governing the aid they desperately need.

“The big problem is that no grant money has hit the streets,” said George Kasimos, a Toms River resident who started the advocacy group Stop FEMA Now. “They just give you a denial. Without any explanation.”
“There’s no straight answers.”

More of other families struggling here.http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/23814244/a-year-later-some-superstorm-sandy-victims-wonder-if-theyll-ever-get-their-lives-back#axzz2j7I9fZyV

 Another family struggling is the Fernandez' of Nassau County, NY.  The mom, Rosaline, has started a petition which she addresses to the CEO of the American Red Cross, Gail McGovern.  Her petition begins:

American Red Cross: Honor your commitment to Sandy survivors 

Rosaline Fernandez, with Disaster Accountability Project

My name is Rosaline Fernandez, and after Hurricane Sandy I was devastated. Nearly everyone in my community in Atlantic Beach, Nassau County, NY, was impacted. My apartment of 9 years was destroyed by mold – nearly all of our furniture, clothes, books, heirlooms, and photographs – were all gone. I'm a single mom and my three kids and I were homeless. I was overwhelmed and feeling lost. I was so thankful when American Red Cross told me they were going to help me with rental and specific furniture assistance. We were filled with hope... until something horrible happened.

Without any warning, American Red Cross changed several of the Program’s eligibility rules. Just like that, my family -- along with as many as 1,000 other Sandy survivors -- were no longer eligible for the assistance we had counted on because of seemingly random changes that even surprised many of our caseworkers.

Like so many others, the American Red Cross’s Move-In Assistance Program was the help we needed to get back on our feet. We were so ready to move on with our lives.  I even found a new apartment and the landlord completed the paperwork provided by Red Cross. We couldn’t understand why the Red Cross would suddenly move the goalpost for eligibility for the program leaving hundreds of victims and their families behind right as we were prepared to settle in to new homes and rebuild.

Millions of people across the country donated hundreds of millions of dollars to American Red Cross, trusting that they were helping people like me and my neighbors. The Move-In Assistance Program could have been a lifesaver for families who lost everything.
 Instead, it has been a nightmare....

She goes on to give details of other families who  have been unable to get the help they also so desperately need.  She is asking for your signature here. 
The fact is, no matter what level of bureaucracy may be involved, there ARE families who face another long, cold harsh winter,  who are still unable to gain any semblance of a stable, new normal since Hurricane Sandy ripped right through their homes, their lives.

The media may move on, but Americans unlucky enough to be in the path of Hurricane Sandy will never be the same again. 

From the POTUS statement above:

..."That's who we are as Americans — we take care of our own. We leave nobody behind. And as long as our fellow Americans continue to travel the long and sometimes difficult road to recovery, their country will stay with them every step of the way."...

That IS the American way, looking out for each other, and we saw that full-force on October 29 last year.   It is my belief that the legacy of Hurricane Sandy will be a continuing demonstration of those values. NObody left behind.

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