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Hurricane Sandy: One Year Later

TiC Contributing Author Mike Sloggatt is a Long Island resident and national building educator who spent time volunteering in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Mike reflected on the cleanup and recovery from the devastating storm in a October/November 2013 interview with Fine Homebuilding. Fine Homebuilding granted TiC permission to reprint the interview in its entirety. The original can be accessed on the Fine Homebuilding website.

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Fine Homebuilding: You volunteered with a response team from Jehovah’s Witnesses and worked in Long Island communities including the Rockaways, Long Beach, and Massa­pequa. What kind of damage did you see there?

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(Note: Click any image to enlarge)

Mike Sloggatt: We saw all types of damage. The predominant inland damage was mostly to roofs that were older or improperly installed. The winds were not so strong as to cause massive damage; most of the inland damage was caused by trees. Homes by the coast were primarily water-damaged. Wave action and the tidal surge caused most of the structural issues. The force of the water carried along floating debris that damaged decks, porches, garages, and houses, especially in areas subject to wave and tidal movement.

Fire was another factor. Emergency equipment was unable to reach affected residences during the storm.

FH: What did volunteers like yourself do?

MS: Our initial response was to take volunteers into homes to stabilize the structure from a moisture standpoint. We had no electricity or heat, so no mechanical capability to dry things out.

IMG_0733-1 We gutted drywall and anything that holds water, cleaned and power-washed, mopped up, and let the buildings air-dry. Then we followed up with multiple sanitizations to check mold growth.

Many of us bought supplies and donated materials on our own. We repaired structural issues if they were minor. We tarped homes. We removed debris. After stabilizing homes, we began rebuilding. For major structural or environmental problems, we referred the homeowners to professional companies to avoid danger to untrained volunteers.

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FH: What challenges did all this devastation present for contractors?

MS: Initially, it was a shortage of labor and some supplies. The response also was slow as related issues came up and not everyone knew how to address them: Should the wiring be upgraded? Did the house need a new boiler? Did it need a new service panel?

One big issue for contractors was figuring out how they were going to get paid. How would repair projects be funded? How could they repair a home with more damage than the homeowners’ funds could cover? Determining what needed to be replaced and what needed to be fixed were also big issues. IMG_0512-1

Some contractors worked with us as volunteers and also took jobs for profit. Our response team also made recom­mendations to homeowners for builders they could call who could work on repairing their homes.

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FH: What types of challenges have homeowners faced?

MS: Financing and lack of a clear rebuilding plan. For homes damaged cosmetically or with interior damage, the repair plan was pretty straightforward. For homes with structural damage, it has been different. Many homeowners need to or want to raise their home, but new flood maps are not complete in certain areas. Then there are additional issues: How high? Who will raise it? How much will it cost? How much will my flood insurance cost if I raise the house, or if I don’t?

Many homes with major damage are still sitting untouched due to lack of insurance, upside-down mortgages, foreclosure, or because the homeowners are struggling with municipalities on how to rebuild. IMG_0677-1

Storage was a big issue for a lot of folks. People had things that were salvageable but had no place to put them while their homes were being stabilized and repaired. We ended up building these small outbuildings we called “arks,” hand-framed, shedlike structures, 16 ft. long by 10 ft. wide. People were able to store their personal effects in these.

FH: Are communities examining their local building codes so that they’re ready for another storm like Sandy?

MS: Definitely. New flood maps will address that. The flood maps to a great degree will determine where the insurance needs are going to be. They will determine where houses have to be elevated. Any new home will now have to meet those requirements, as well as any home that is more than 50% rebuilt.

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FH: Are homeowners getting the help that they need?

MS: Not all of them. Some have had a long, hard road. Those with good insurance companies or cash fared much better. For people who couldn’t afford flood insurance, FEMA was a big help with their grants. New York City was also a big help. They came up with a program to replace boilers, water heaters, and electrical. They did a phenomenal job of getting people back on their feet.

Comments/Discussion

6 Responses to “Hurricane Sandy: One Year Later”

  1. Big Bob

    This has been a very sad outcome for most of the people affected by Sandy. I have been part of the effort from Calvary Chapel Relief, and what we have seen all up and down the shore is horrendous. My wife and have adopted a family in Union Beach NJ. We go there on weekends when free. There is very little help available to them and even fewer honest contractors to help. There have been some things take place that make me really scratch my head, but in short, way too many are still in need of massive aid.

    Reply
  2. Big Jon Heister

    Mike,
    Was thrilled to read this article in Fine Homebuilding, I’ve been sharing it with everyone. I have seen you many times at roadshows/ JLC, keep up the good work brother.

    Reply
  3. Frankf

    Sound like much the same I saw in New Orleans after Katrina. So much to do, but so many road blocks to get anything done. You just have to have the mind set that what ever you get done would not have been done unless you had been there. Its up to each of us the step up to the plate and not be waiting for “someone” to do something.

    Reply
  4. Sandi Flynn

    This article hit home because we just had a team of 17 at Ortley Beach last week trying to help owners get back into their homes. We also had to spend a lot of our money to buy supplies and bring our own tools to help them. We didn’t even put a dent into what needs to be done. The roads are all closed and it is a nightmare to get around, but volunteers are doing what they can. Why are the reporters from channels 3, 6 and 10 not there covering this part of the storm, one year later. This town will look almost the same as it does now 5 years from now if this lack of concern for the people continues and the news people don’t start covering it for the rest of the states to see. Thank you for this article.

    Reply
  5. Jim

    I hate to break it to my friends in the less traveled hurricane paths but rebuilding is a horrible ordeal every place a hurricane hits. We see the slow rebuild on the gulf coast and take it for granted the media will not cover the story. You should also know that your state and local governments play a big role in how long it takes to rebuild. Texas and Florida recover a lot faster than Louisiana every time because of the differences in local governments, ordinances, building codes, etc.

    I will be interested to see if the Northeast watches the ordeals that unfold in future hurricane strikes with a different level of understanding.

    Reply

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