Hurricane Sandy is gone, but the damage from the storm is clearly still visible. It has been 3 months since Super Storm Sandy unleashed on the East Coast of the United States, but the daunting task of clean up is still a daily task. This past weekend I went back to New Jersey to follow up on how the clean-up is going.
As soon as I crossed the Rt 37 bridge into Seaside Heights, everything changed. Driving into town was not too challenging as the roads were mostly cleared, but many of the side streets are closed. In fact, there are barriers blocking many of the streets. People are working on a daily basis to clean up the area. The police still have the ocean side streets blocked to traffic and street signs reading, “6:00 p.m. Curfew.”
Almost all of the traffic lights are blinking instead of being fully operational, and Joan Delucia from the Bucket Brigade reported that only a handful of residents were in the area. Delucia spends every weekend organizing groups of volunteers and working to repair her city. During my brief conversation with her, she reported that in 2013, people will continue to clean up the area and our goal is to get back to a more normal life in 2014.
I, once again, met up with Team Rubicon on a combined mission with other local efforts including Bucket Brigade and Paying it Forward. Our goal was to help start the process of rebuilding residents homes. Our first stop was actually a very straightforward visit. This family has not had access to the rear of their home since the storm had washed away the steps. While talking to the homeowner, we learned that the insurance is only paying for the interior of his home. Anything on the outside was not covered, including the steps and contents of the garage.
My initial thought was this day might not be as challenging as I once thought. Boy was I wrong. After completing his house, we geared up to visit our second assignment.
We were assigned to “Muck and Gut” which essentially means totally tear everything out so a construction company can start to repair the interior. This local home owner has been busy getting his business back together. The home was in awful condition with mold 6 feet high on his walls. I don’t think I have ever smelled anything like this in my life. Even Team Rubicon members, who have been in the military for years, said the smell was overwhelming. Volunteers who worked inside were required to wear full protective gear, and all of us wore masks. This project took hours to complete, and the owner was extremely appreciative for the help.
My last stop of the day was to Lu Hill’s house. Her parent’s built the house in 1952, and she needs to get it back in shape. This was another total tear down of the interior. I guess the true question in all of this is where is the help? If it were not for volunteers like Joan and countless others, who would get these towns back in shape?
After you spend time with the local residents, you quickly learn that volunteers are the answer. Through social media and other forms of communication, the word spreads and groups like Team Rubicon, Bucket Brigade, Paying It Forward, and countless others help out.
I can tell you from personal experience that if you haven’t visited these communities, it is hard to understand the destruction. Although I am a photographer, the images don’t produce a complete picture. This was a massive storm, and you need to see the destruction in person to fully take it in. For additional pictures, please click here.