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A year after Hurricane Sandy, press reports describe a halting, partial, and uneven recovery across the storm-struck region.
A year after Sandy, the fortunate ones have rebuilt. But for many, the future is a hard road home.
A "Super-Storm" on Monday, Hurricane Sandy has now weakened into "a trough of low pressure over western Pennsylvania, with no discernible surface circulation," the Weather Service reports ("Remnants of Sandy Continue to Weaken"). But in the wake of the storm lies devastation — a stretch of battered shoreline and crippled infrastructure that will take weeks and months to repair, and a swath of damaged and destroyed homes and businesses near the shore.
A destroyed section of the Rockaway boardwalk in the heavily damaged Rockaway section of Queens.
On Tuesday night, Coastal Connection heard from Long Island builder and remodeler Mike Sloggatt, a frequent JLC contributor and a moderator on the JLConline.com Framing Forum. With much of the media's attention focused on New York City and the Jersey shore, little news is reaching the national airwaves about Long Island, east of the city. But in a static-filled cell phone report, Sloggatt says the heavily populated island has taken a ferocious blow.
"We have no power," said Sloggatt. "Every block that you go on, there is either a giant tree down or a telephone pole draped across the roadway. To get from one side of the neighborhood to the other would take you a couple of hours because of all the stuff on the roads. Thousands and thousands of cars are underwater, or floating down streets ... boats are all over the place. Boats are in people's yards. It really looks like Katrina. When you go down to the coastal communities — they are just devastated."
A section of washed-out tracks is seen on the Long Island Rail Road.
Communication is spotty. "This is the first phone call I've been able to get through since 12 noon," said Sloggatt. "Cell service is just not working. It's so overloaded, if you try to make a phone call, you could wait a minute and a half before you even get a connection. Messages take two to three hours to come sometimes. Texting is better, but there is quite a delay."
"We don't have TV," said Sloggatt. "We don't have internet. You can't email anything. We are completely cut off, other than the radio. We can't see anything of what everybody else is seeing. So we have no idea what you guys know."
Sloggatt's own house is about 3 miles from the South Shore, and sits well above the flood zone. He has water, food, and gas for his generator. "My family and I are fine," he said. But as of Tuesday evening, Sloggatt had not been able to contact his brother-in-law, who lives in Long Beach on the South Shore, since Monday night. "When we talked to him last night just about before high tide, he said the ocean and the bay had met," said Sloggatt. "They had three and a half feet of water. A block away and five houses up, there was a house completely ablaze. They were seeing multiple blazes. The houses were burning because the fire department couldn't get there, and they were concerned about their house going up because of the flames spreading. But that's the last we heard of him."
A friend who lives south of Route 27A fled the rising flood waters and ended up at Sloggatt's house. "I gave my buddy a call to say, ‘Are you guys all right?'" says Sloggatt. "He said ‘Oh, we're okay, I guess.' But then all of a sudden he sees the water coming down the street and he says, ‘No we're not okay.' So I said, ‘Well, get your butt over here.' So now I have a family staying in my house, and they may be here for an extended period of time, because their house is uninhabitable. It got trashed by the water."
Sloggatt and his friend spent part of yesterday cleaning water, oil, and grease out of the friend's garage. "We need a place to put the belongings that are good," he explained, "so we can start gutting the house — trying to salvage it."
Compared to New York City and New Jersey (where President Obama took a damage inspection tour with Governor Chris Christie this afternoon), Long Island is receiving relatively less press attention. But according to The New York Times, Long Island will have a harder time restoring electric power ("Cuomo Paints Dire Power Picture on Long Island," by Michael M. Grynbaum). "The substations on the south side of the island have been destroyed," Governor Andrew Cuomo told the paper — "and he added that it was difficult to find enough transportation to bring in workers from outside regions who can assist with the Long Island recovery effort."
Bad as the damage in New Jersey and New York sounds — and the toll is estimated to top $20 billion — it could have been much, much worse. "We're still waiting for the big one," said Tim Reinhold, a vice president with the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) in an email to Coastal Connection. "That would be, from a wind standpoint, a Category 3 storm hitting just west of Manhattan, with Long Island Island and the coasts of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts in the right quadrant." Surge and wind from a storm like that, says Reinhold, would both be devastating — with expected losses in the 60 billion or higher range.