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Coastal areas cope with storm devastation

Mel Flanagan | Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Two weeks ago, senior Katie Murphy had been looking forward to spending Thanksgiving at home with her family in the waterside community of Island Park, N.Y.

But two weeks ago, Superstorm Sandy had not yet made landfall on Long Island, N.Y., flooding Murphy’s home and causing damages significant enough to keep her family, who evacuated north to the home of an aunt, out of the house for the next several months.

“If all goes well, my family expects to move back into our home by mid-February or early March. However, it could take much longer,” Murphy said. “My aunt’s house is packed, so my brother and I are stuck here for Thanksgiving. It’ll be really nice to finally see my family on Christmas.”

Sandy, which began as a hurricane and was downgraded to a tropical storm before it hit land in New Jersey, barreled into the East Coast on Oct. 29, affecting coastal communities of several states.

Over a week later, many communities are dealing with the aftermath of the storm, which often includes lack of power, destroyed buildings and
homeless residents.

“We don’t have power, plumbing or clean drinking water,” Murphy said of Island Park. “The National Guard, FEMA and countless volunteers have been working around the clock to provide my community with bottled water, food, blankets and clean clothing.”

While Sandy was devastating Murphy’s community, junior Tom White’s family remained in their home and waited out the storm about 20 miles north of Island Park in Garden City, N.Y.

His immediate family was lucky compared to the experiences of others; his home’s worst damage was due to a tree that fell on the garage. But his extended family, who live nearby in the small beach community of Breezy Point, did not fare so well.

“My cousins effectively lost their home due to tremendous flooding from the storm,” he said.
“Rebuilding down there will be incredibly difficult but New Yorkers are known for their resiliency. We will get through this no matter how strenuous the toil.”

In addition to flooding from the nearby water, over 100 homes in Breezy Point were engulfed by a fire during the storm. The result, White said, was a devastated town that “looks like a warzone.”

Power, water and heat returned to White’s house over the weekend. But prior to the restoration, White said the lack of communication with his family has made his week difficult.

“Insofar as I could not contact my family for the duration of the storm, I felt tense and nervous this past week,” he said. “I wanted nothing more than to be there with them to ride out this monster. Focusing on school this past week has been challenging because of the chaos Sandy has wrought in the greater scheme of things.”

Senior Jill Giunco said the most difficult part of Sandy has been attempting to imagine how the affected areas look. For as long as she can remember, the Colts Neck, N.J., native spent her summers visiting the beaches and attractions along the coast, only a short drive from her home.

“I think I will be in complete shock to go home during Thanksgiving and see all of the changes,” she said. “The shore is totally different … It’s a weird feeling that so much of the landscape around the shore and the beaches I grew up going to will be so different.”

While her home did not incur any terrific damages, Giunco said the basement of her house flooded during the storm, and her family remains without power.

Many of her friends live on the shore, however, and the damages to their homes are much more extensive. Several have lost their homes entirely, Giunco said, due to either excessive flooding or fire.

“My mom was telling me about a friend in a nearby town, Freehold, whose home had a great deal of water damage,” she said. “When the electricity finally went on for them, the damage had messed with the wiring and the entire house went up in flames.”

Although flames and floods have left areas up and down the East Coast in a state of disaster, Murphy said the residents are what truly compose a community.

“My town will never be the same. The boardwalk and beaches were completely destroyed. I never expected to see something like this,” she said. “Fortunately, my community is extremely close and very committed to rebuilding our town.”

Contact Mel Flanagan at
mflanag3@nd.edu