hurricane sandy
A general view of submerged cars on Ave. C and 7th st, after severe flooding caused by Hurricane Sandy, on Tuesday 10/30/2012 in Manhattan, New York.

 It has been quite the week. Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record and second costliest Atlantic hurricane on record, surpassed only by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (early estimates of Sandy damage exceed $20 billion), left her devastation across the Caribbean, and Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States this week.

The Hurricane developed from a tropical wave in the western Caribbean Sea on Monday 10/22/2012, became a hurricane on Wednesday 10/24/2012 and made landfall near Kingston, Jamaica, strengthening into a Category 2 hurricane. On Thursday 10/25/2012 Sandy hit Cuba, and on Friday 10/26/2012 moved through the Bahamas. On Saturday 10/27/2012 the Hurricane intensified to Category 1. On Monday 10/29/2012, Sandy curved north-northwest and then moved ashore near Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Breezy Point
The FDNY reported the official count of houses ”burned to the ground” in Breezy Point, Queens: 110 homes.

In Jamaica, winds left 70% of residents without electricity, blew roofs off buildings, killed one, and caused about $55.23 million (2012 USD) in damage. In Haiti, Sandy’s outer bands brought flooding that killed at least 52, caused food shortages, and left about 200,000 homeless. In the Dominican Republic, two died. In Puerto Rico, one man was swept away by a swollen river. In Cuba, there was extensive coastal flooding and wind damage inland, destroying some 15,000 homes, killing 11, and causing $2 billion (2012 USD) in damage. In The Bahamas, two died amid an estimated $300 million (2012 USD) worth of damage took place.

In the United States, Hurricane Sandy affected 20% of the population: at least 24 states, from Florida to Maine and west to Michigan and Wisconsin, with particularly severe damage in New Jersey and New York state.

Sandy’s storm surge hit us here in New York City on Monday 10/29/2012, flooding streets, tunnels, and subway lines, and cutting power in and around the five boroughs, suburbs, and tri-state area.

Streets flooded under the Manhattan Bridge in D.U.M.B.O., Brooklyn on Monday 10/29/2012.

Strangely, the devastation in Staten Island was curiously under reported, most likely due to difficulty in accessing the area. Thanks to one of my Team in Training – NYC Chapter run/racewalk coaches who lives in the borough, my teammates and I were able to see how badly Staten Island was effected. And thanks to the cancellation of the 2012 New York City Marathon, scheduled for today, Sunday 11/4/2012 ( which in my opinion should have been cancelled as soon as Sandy’s aftermath was understood on Tuesday 10/30/2012), I was free to volunteer with a Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort on Staten Island organized by my best friend Nicole’s Forefront Church.

A parking lot full of yellow cabs is flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday 10/30/2012 in Hoboken, NJ.

Here Nicole and I are, after arriving to a Hurricane Sandy Relief Effort on Staten Island this afternoon. We wore warm clothes and waterproof boots, brought new and gently used articles of clothing to donate, and were given dust masks, work gloves, and as much food as we needed for lunch once we were there.  Nicole, her husband, and I had the most delicious peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, took this photo, and began walking away from the donation collection and food distribution areas, toward those in need.

SARAH SARNA AND NICOLE AMEDURI GONUL

With rakes and shovels in hand we were told to knock on doors, look for ways to help, and just do whatever was needed.

The relief today was completely organic and whole-hearted. A number of other church-organized groups were there and everyone was just doing whatever they could to help: from serving food, to sorting donations, to doing what we were doing – looking for ways to physically help.

SANDY RELIEF ON STATEN ISLAND

With so many thousands of NYC Marathoners in town without a marathon to race, a lot of them and myself included were ready willing and able to put in at least several hours of physical work – at the very least the amount of time we had planned to be out running/racing this November day.  As we walked towards the homeowners hardest hit, we saw sights like these: roofs, homes, personal belongings, etc. smashed and severed from where they had been before the Hurricane began.

STATEN ISLAND AFTER SANDY

Once we began seeing homeowners we stopped taking photos and started helping. The amount of destruction was shocking. Those who still had homes had to strip them to the frames. All drywall, insulation, furnishings, EVERYTHING has to be evacuated from impacted residences. The water-level-marks were obvious and it looked like the water in the neighborhood we were in had reached a good seven feet high.

So we spent the afternoon raking debris into garbage bags, stuffing drywall and insulation into garbage bags, dragging furniture to the side of the road, and loading all of the aforementioned into sanitation trucks alongside the homeowners. Everyone we talked to was not only extremely appreciative of our help, but focused and cheerful and personable. They asked us about the marathon, where we were from, if we had ever been to Staten Island before. Two separate male homeowners told us the story of how they had rescued their family pets from the flood.

One gentleman stressed how fast the Hurricane waters had risen.  He explained that at one point the water was up to his shin, and minutes later it was to his neck. He swam to safety and on higher ground was stripped of his clothes and fought back against hypothermia.  He said the water was the coldest he had ever felt.  The general consensus of those we met was that they were thankful to be alive and that whatever they had left, if anything, was bonus.

Full recovery, by our estimates, will take months to a year – or two.

Now here’s how we can help. Here is one list of efforts taking place in the tri-state area. Please post any links you’d like to share as a comment and please, all, be well.

Images / 1 / Photographer: Christos Pathiakis of Getty Images via GizModo Emergency via Sketch 42 / 2 / Photographer: FDNY  / 3 / Photographer: Bebeto Matthews of AP / 4 / Photographer: Charles Sykes of AP / 5-8 / Photographer: Sarah Sarna /

Author: Sarah Sarna

Interior Designer and Editor helping intelligent women unlock their style and own it, à la: decorating, fashion, beauty, and beyond.