October 30, 2013

One year later, painful memories of Superstorm Sandy live on

Snapshots from the New York area show a community still struggling with the aftermath.

By Meghan Barr
The Associated Press

 

click image to enlarge

Volunteers plant beach grass Tuesday on a newly constructed sand dune along the beach in the Breezy Point neighborhood in Queens. A year ago Superstorm Sandy ravaged the region. The beach grass will protect the new dune, 1,200 feet in length, from erosion.

The Associated Press

Lawmakers hope to delay flood insurance rate hike they triggered

Democratic members of the House of Representatives and the Senate unveiled a bill Tuesday, the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, that would delay the flood insurance rate increases that are starting to go into effect under a law passed last year.

The law phases out some federal subsidies for flood insurance. The intent was to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars into the National Flood Insurance Program, which is about $25 billion in debt. Supporters of the delay said millions of property owners faced much higher flood insurance rates.

“Forty percent of flood policies are in my state, and it has dried up the real estate market,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said at a news conference at which he and more than a dozen other senators and House members announced the bill aimed at postponing the increases, which began Oct. 1. The legislation would require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to conduct an affordability study and give Congress time to review it. FEMA, which manages the flood program, would have to show that it had developed a flood-risk assessment program that Congress could accept. The time frame would effectively put off the rate hikes for four years.

– McClatchy Newspapers

The anniversary of Superstorm Sandy was a day of reflection for many – a time to ponder still-missed loved ones who died when coastal communities were hit by an unprecedented surge of seawater and a chance to take stock of how far recovery efforts have come.

And for some taking part in those rebuilding efforts, it was just another day to keep working in hopes of getting homes repaired and people’s lives back in order.

Sandy came ashore on Oct. 29, 2012, sending floodwaters pouring across the densely populated barrier islands of Long Island and the Jersey shore. In New York City, the storm surge hit nearly 14 feet, swamping the city’s subway and commuter rail tunnels and knocking out power to the southern third of Manhattan.

The storm was blamed for at least 182 deaths in the U.S. – including 68 in New York and 71 in New Jersey – and property damage estimated at $65 billion.

Here is a look at anniversary observances through a series of vignettes detailing how people are commemorating the unprecedented storm:

FREEPORT, LONG ISLAND

A group of volunteers in neon orange T-shirts was busy at work outside a Freeport, Long Island, home on Tuesday afternoon, cutting pieces of tile and molding on power saws in the driveway and garage of the split-level ranch they were helping repair.

The volunteers are part of the Samaritan’s Purse organization, a charitable group founded by the Rev. Franklin Graham that helps with disaster relief throughout the country.

Samaritan’s Purse supervisor Kevin Vallas said volunteers have been on Long Island since the days immediately following Sandy.

He said the group has rebuilt four homes and assisted with cleaning out and repairs on dozens of others, both in New York and New Jersey.

“I get my rewards in heaven. I’m a Christian,” explained David Ray, a married father of two from Chillicothe, Ohio. “We’re commanded to be the hands and feet of Jesus. What we’re showing people here is love.”

STATEN ISLAND

Beatrice Spagnuolo was one of 23 people on Staten Island who died when Superstorm Sandy struck a year ago.

The 79-year-old woman was killed when her Midland Beach home flooded.

On Tuesday, her son Vincent Spagnuolo joined about 200 others who marched on a Midland Beach boardwalk to honor the memory of those who died on Staten Island.

As bagpipers played “Amazing Grace,” Vincent Spagnuolo said he still hadn’t gotten over his mother’s death.

Spagnuolo’s own Staten Island home was also destroyed when Sandy struck.

MANHATTAN

When Sandy darkened much of the city, some New Yorkers were only hours old. Others weren’t even born.

On Tuesday, babies filled a Manhattan hospital room to celebrate their first birthdays – and their survival. Their parents and hospital staff lighted candles atop cupcakes and sang, “Happy birthday, dear babies.”

Kenneth Hulett III weighed only 2 pounds when emergency medical workers rushed him out of the New York Hospital intensive care unit and down the stairs while hooked up to an oxygen tank. His mother, Emily Blatt, says her faith sustained her as she was evacuated on an orange sled.

That day, more than 40 babies were safety moved from the hospital to other facilities.

Visiting a flood-damaged firehouse in Seaside Park, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday was a day to remember volunteers and first responders who risked their lives to save others.

“I want us to think of how much better things look today than they did a year ago and celebrate that,” Christie said. “We also have to acknowledge that there’s still thousands of people out of their homes.”

(Continued on page 2)

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