Life after Sandy

The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you’re not alone

Phillip Phillips, Home

The last photo I took of the lifeguard shack the day before the storm. It survived Irene even though it was lifted from its foundation and slammed into the boardwalk. This time it also slammed into the boardwalk and traveled miles down the beach. It was smashed into pieces and is now gone.

The reality that I’m living in right now doesn’t seem real. I feel like I’m living out a scene from a movie, the part at the end when after all the devastation has hit and everyone emerges from their home to see the aftermath, that has become my life thanks to Hurricane Sandy.

I live in New York, in a city called Long Beach which is located as far south as you can get on Long Island. We are an island within an island, the only way you can get access to other parts of Long Island from where I live is by three bridges. Where I live, you know that when they predict a hurricane, you aren’t just going to get a tiny drop or rain and a wind gust and be done with it. We have the Atlantic Ocean on one side of us, the bay on the other side, so if they are predicting a hurricane to be bad, you know you are going to take a beating. Last Sunday, the day before Hurricane Sandy hit, a mandatory evacuation was issued for Long Beach. With a mandatory evacuation, they can’t actually knock on your door and force you from your home, but if you don’t leave and need help, the help may not be there for you because the situation is too dangerous for emergency workers to risk their lives. My family and I did not leave. I live three blocks from the beach, an extremely prone flooding area, so if the power goes out, people need to be home to run a generator to pump out the water in the basement and prevent it from reaching the first floor of the house. A huge majority of people in my town did not leave for the same reasons. They can tell you its going to be bad, but if you can try and find a way to save your house, you will.

Last year with Hurricane Irene, we had flooding, the ocean waves were so strong they made their way past the sand and out onto city streets and the bay overflowed and rumor had it they met in the middle of the town. When I was growing up you always heard stories about a hurricane back in the day where the ocean met the bay and people wondered if it would ever happen again. Sandy was predicted to be worse than Irene, and sure enough it was. A little before 7 p.m. last Monday night, the ocean came flooding down my block. We figured it was going to happen, we knew we weren’t getting away with as little water damage as Irene, but I didn’t think I would ever see that much of the ocean sitting in front of my house. In less than an hour at least four feet of water had risen outside. Within minutes the cars were being covered with water and my car along with almost every other car on my block was filled with water and the engines flooded out. What made the situation worse was that the hurricane occured during high tide. Pieces from the boardwalk were floating down the block along with garbage cans, fences and even parts of the roof of someone’s house. The wind force was so strong that transformers all over were blowing up and trees all over were uprooted and took power lines and light posts down.

Wood from the boardwalk was found all over the streets blocking cars in that couldn’t move because the ocean water flooded them and left them dead. Sand from the beach also covered the street.

Tuesday morning after high tide in the morning passed, walking outside to see the damage you felt like you were walking around in a post-apocalyptic world. Cars were turned in every direction from the force of the water, many cars were missing one or more of their windows, chunks of the boardwalk sat blocks away from where the actual boardwalk use to be and houses had burnt down. People walked to their cars hoping that they would be able to turn on only to find out that the majority of cars in Long Beach were now dead. In my family there are four cars, all four of those cars are sitting dead in our driveway waiting to be towed to a salvage yard. Our basement had about five feet of water in it, which killed the boiler, hot water heater, washer and dryer. The washing machine was knocked around by the water that it was floating like a buoy in the basement. Everything that was organized neatly on a shelf or in a storage bin in the basement was now floating in a huge mess. It looked like a tornado had ripped through it. Our garage was filled with water as well, destroying most of the contents in it.

Long Beach has its own water supply and due to the storm wiping it out, we were left with no water. There was no water to wash your hands, get a quick drink or even flush your toilet. Thankfully a few days ago our water system was starting to run again, though we are really not suppose to be fully using it yet. We were also left with no power and a week after the storm hit, the first signs of power started to return. Many residents are still left with no power, but at least slowly it is starting to return. Most of our boardwalk is gone, reduced to a pile of firewood. Certain areas of the boardwalk collapsed, the benches that are nailed down onto the boardwalk were found in different areas than they use to be and some ramps to the boardwalk don’t even exist anymore.

The water poured into the basement and left it a mess. All of the items use to either be organized on shelves or in storage bins.

Now its one huge clean up. Our basement has basically been stripped of everything that was in it. Luckily we didn’t have a finished basement so our basement was just used for storage. Many of my neighbors are throwing out furniture and appliances from their basements because they used them as dens and apartments. The garage has also been basically emptied of all of its contents. Its tough to look outside of your house and see so many things that you owned sitting in a pile for garbage.

We’ve had so much help in trying to get things back to some kind of normal in Long Beach. The National Guard is in town giving out food, water and patrolling the streets. It was a little strange at first to see the army trucks come down the street and men in uniform handing you water, but now they have become part of the community. There are fire departments and cleaning crews from all over the country helping us. There are so many people that are organizing drives to send us food, clothing and supplies. The outpouring of support is amazing and I’m so grateful to everyone and organization that has done something to try to help us get back on our feet.

Long Beach has always felt like a community that was different from others. I use to always say I couldn’t wait to move away from it, but now that I’m a half hour away staying with relatives, all I want is to be back home. I’ve seen how quickly and amazingly my beach community has pulled together to help everyone out, and I am in awe. Long Beachers always help their neighbors out in times of need, but every resident is in need now and we are all pulling together for one another.

I’ll admit that when my car was flooding out, I did cry over losing it, but my car can be replaced. I’ve had a few break down moments here and there, like seeing the block of boardwalk I always walk up at lying on the ground as a pile of rubble or just walking around town and seeing what is going on to the place I have lived for my whole life. The hurricane has changed my perspective on a lot of things, and I’m actually thankful for what it has taught me. When people say we will rebuild and come back stronger, you know for a fact that they are right. Our streets may be covered in piles of sand, our boardwalk may be broken and left all over town, but we will clean up and rebuild the boardwalk as best as we can. It will take us time and a lot of healing, but the city by the sea will be back.

4 thoughts on “Life after Sandy

  1. Reading your story sure puts things in perspective. I’m impressed by how you’re coping with all of this. I hope many others will see you and the other people of your city as an example. I wish you all the best during this difficult time.

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