Superstorm Sandy: One Year Later
It is very rare that things live up to the hype. Rarer still when expectations are exceeded. Today marks the one-year anniversary of such a rarity. It has been a year since Superstorm Sandy came to Long Island and even though we did our best to prepare for her arrival, none of us accurate anticipated the profound effect she would have on us. Not a hurricane but by all accounts, Sandy was a perfect storm. Everything was in alignment to make her powerful and Long Islanders powerless against her. We could do nothing but ride it out.
What I found most unnerving during the storm was how very slowly it moved. I was a teenager in Queens when Hurricane Gloria, the storm many were using for comparison as we awaited Sandy’s arrival, struck us. It was wild and frightening but seemed to come and go very fast. Not so with Sandy. It felt as though the winds went on forever. The pins and needles we were on with each swell of the tides. Power is still on…how long will it last? Power is out…how long will we be in the dark?
I was incredibly -- almost embarrassingly -- fortunate. I live in a high and dry area of Islip, no trees near us (at least none of any threatening size) and we’re on a main road. We didn’t take any water. Nothing fell on us. Part of our old fence fell and a few things in our yard got blown around. We lost power for only about 5-6 hours. During the storm, because we live on a main and unbelievably well-travelled road, there was some poor soul up in a cherry picker working on a utility pole. My family and I were mesmerized looking out the window at him, hoping that the picker and the pole would hold out.
Many of my neighbors were not so lucky. Huge, strong trees were horizontal. There were fires. They were without power for days…weeks. Folks to the south were literally underwater. Some didn’t evacuate when they were advised to and witnessed the slow and steady horror of Sandy up close. There was an eerie quiet when it ended. We explored areas we had come to know like the backs of our hands as if we were strangers. We were shell shocked. One storm did all this?
People tossed waterlogged possessions out on their front lawns. They ripped up carpet, they tore down sheetrock with their bare hands. They didn’t stop when they were exhausted. They kept going to try and salvage the structures of their homes before mold set-in. They sat upon mounds of what used to be irreplaceable mementos, in the damp cold guarding what was left from looters. What do we do now?
One of the reasons I became a REALTOR® -- as hokey as it sounds – is to help people achieve the American Dream. It is a rush to hand the keys to my clients’ homes. I can see in their eyes the memories-yet-to-occur of housewarming, homework and Halloween. They walk away from the closing table talking about paint colors and window treatments, excited to make their home their own. My heart broke thinking about how Sandy might have ravaged those homes. What could I do to help?
When you look into the eye of a storm, you often see beauty in its center. This was true of Superstorm Sandy. Amid the devastation, beat the heart of our community. It was humbling and heartwarming to see how neighbors looked out for one another. People doing whatever they could to help others in need. As a neighbor, I opened my home to others for hot meals and showers. As a REALTOR®, many of my colleagues and I, scrambled to find long-term temporary housing for folks who were displaced. Volunteers cooked hot meals on BBQs and even brought the food to people who were scared to leave what was left of their houses. We used our smartphones and social media to let folks know which gas stations had fuel and how long the lines were. We looked out for eachother.
A year after Sandy has gone, it still isn’t over for many of our neighbors. Some are still in those long-term rentals, stuck in limbo between FEMA and their insurance company. Some people rebuilt and went back to life on the water. Some feel they’ve had enough. As REALTORs®, we are learning the rules in a post-Sandy Long Island so we can continue to help our communities. Can it be rebuilt? Is it sellable? How much will be flood insurance be for the new owner? If you are still recovering from the storm or have questions, you are not alone. Ask me. I'm here to help. That community that looked out for one another, that’s the best legacy that Sandy left behind. They don’t call us Strong Island for nothing…