Posted by: coastlinesproject | September 23, 2015

Long Island; Hurricane Sandy.

Long Island

 

 

The south side of Long Island is where late season Cape Verdean hurricanes usually first hit the United States. Several hundred of the people who died in 1938 had been swept off the beach by the “Long Island Express,” because they didn’t know the storm was coming.

 

But Robin and Dennis Covelli weren’t that concerned. It was 2012 and weather forecasts had greatly improved. They had already survived several hurricanes both on Long Island and in North Carolina where they planned to retire. Their house was in Oceanside, set back from Great South Bay which was itself protected by Long Beach over 5 miles away. Dennis figured they could ride out Sandy as they had all the other hurricanes.

 

But when he went out the morning before Sandy arrived, Dennis saw something he had never seen before. Water had risen so high in the canal 500 feet from his house, that it had flooded the streets. He couldn’t even make it to the corner.

 

So this was the storm surge the weather forecasters kept talking about. If this was what it was like at low tide what would it be like when the water would be nine feet higher at high tide? It didn’t matter that the ocean was 5 miles away. He had forgotten about that damn canal.

 

Dennis rushed back into the house and they packed the kids into the car and drove to Robin’s mother’s house in Queens. It was fortunate they did. That night several of their neighbors who lived in basement apartments died when the water rose right up to their ceilings. Struggle as they might, they couldn’t find any pockets of air to keep them from drowning.

 

It was two days before Dennis could drive back to Oceanside. But before he was even five miles from his house he knew something was terribly wrong. Flooded cars and fallen trees were strewn across the streets and it took him two more hours to finally reach their home.

 

But he couldn’t believe his eyes when he opened their front door. The stench was overpowering. Their basement was still full of water and there were ugly brown watermarks, four feet high up on the walls of their kitchen and living room. All their clothes, furniture and household items were completely destroyed.

 

Every time Dennis opened another kitchen cabinet water would pour out along with soggy lumps of congealed sugar, pasta and cereal. The refrigerator reeked of rotting meat and decaying vegetables.

 

Their neighbors had already started to haul clothes, furniture and mattresses out into the street where they would sit in giant moldy piles that the rats would find way before they could be disposed of by the disabled trash department.

 

Dennis was still in shock when he heard a knock on the door. It was the contractor who had remodeled their house only a few months before. Dennis started to tell Tom that he was in no condition to make any decisions. But Tom cut him off.

 

“Don’t worry about it, Dennis. I’ll take care of everything.”

 

It was the best thing that could have ever happened. Tom Cabretta had worked on several other houses in the neighborhood so their owners had readily agreed to his suggestion that he repair all the houses at the same time. So Tom was able to use the Covelli’s garage as a staging area to cache lumber and another neighbor’s garage to cache sheetrock and whitewall materials while he concentrated on finishing the job.

 

The Covellis stayed at Robin’s mother’s house for two weeks and then switched over to Dennis’ mother’s house for several more months while Tom finished the work. The kids had to miss several months of school along with ten of thousands of other students.

 

But the Covellis were lucky. They had enough money set aside so they could give Tom the go ahead to start work before their insurance company paid them for their losses. As it was, the company only paid them $50,000 even though they had sustained $80,000 in damages. But FEMA was a joke. Dennis stood in line for hours to apply for a living stipend but as soon as the officials heard he had their own insurance they dropped him like a hot potato.

 

The Covellis had lost their house, two of their three cars, and almost everything they owned, but because they had already decided to retire to North Carolina they had a plan. So they were able to fix up their house and put it on the market before there were too many other houses for sale in their neighborhood.

 

It only took the Covellis 5 months to find a buyer and they probably sold the house for $200,000 less than they would have been able to sell it for before the storm. But the price was enough to allow them to buy a new house in North Carolina.

 

But they had learned their lesson. The Covelli’s new house was also 5 miles from the ocean, but on Long Island they had only been nine feet above sea level. Ocean Isle was 56 feet above sea level.

 

Robin summed up the situation perfectly, “We are extremely fortunate. Every morning we feel like we have died and gone to heaven.”

 

But Dennis has a variation on the theme; “You know that old adage, that anything that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Well I don’t believe it any more!”

 

 

####

 

William Sargent is the author of 20 books on science and the environment. His newest book, Energy Wars; A Report from the Front is available in local bookstores and through Amazon.com and at www.strawberryhillpress.com.

 

 

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