Stow Residents Help in Wake of Sandy

 

Sandy’s devastation, littered across Breezy Point. Notice the receding beach water and sand in the street in the lower right.
Courtesy Don Hangen

By Ann Needle

Compared with New York and New Jersey, Stow escaped the worst horrors of Hurricane Sandy.  As the New York/New Jersey shore areas still wrestle with unimaginable destruction, Stow residents have reached out to help.

Here in Stow, Locally, Mark and Matthew Allaire have set up a yard sale to benefit the Red Cross and its efforts to help Sandy’s victims across the Mid Atlantic. Rounding up donations from friends in the area, the freshmen at Nashoba Regional High School will be hosting the sale outside their home at 83 Boxboro Road, on Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

But in the heart of the storm damaged areas, Stow’s Kath King, who grew up on Long Island, vividly described the destruction reported to her by family and friends still living there. “The biggest issue, which is tough for us to comprehend, is salt water flooding a home meant raw sewerage. My sister was telling me, ‘Kath, the stench is unbelievable.’ A picture can never tell you what that’s like.”

She continued, “They literally have to pull everything – literally everything – out of the house that’s been touched by that water. If the water went halfway up your wall, you need to pull the plaster out.”

Pulling everything out means most of it needs to land on the sidewalks and  streets in front of these houses. Regular sanitation services have no hope of keeping up with that volume of waste. As King explained, this has many streets looking like a war zone.

Compounding the nightmare is the shock felt in those neighborhoods that never had any reason to believe they would be flooded, King noted.
King said that her alma mater, Oceanside High School, is about 10 to 15 miles away from the shore. “The water on those streets was waist high. My sister said, ‘Who in their right minds would envision water in the middle of Oceanside?’”

Students in Oceanside just returned to school last week, with power out much of the time since the storm. “They made this rule that no one can turn on power until the fire inspector goes through it,” King said. It is a painfully slow process, according to King,  given that someone must be home when the inspector — who does not schedule visits —shows up, yet thousands have been forced to temporarily abandon their houses.
As for whether insurance will adequately cover much of this damage, “I really don’t think it’s crossed people’s minds yet; they’re still in survival mode,” King said.

Getting Beyond Survival

Forrest (left) and Don Hangen
Courtesy Don Hangen

Also helping New York families get beyond “survival mode” were Stow’s Don and Forrest Hangen, who joined members of their church in journeying to Breezy Point, Queens, to help clean out homes. Breezy Point is where 111 houses burned to the ground in the storm.

Don explained that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Littleton came together with Mormons across the East Coast to form Mormon Helping Hands specifically to help out the hardest-hit areas.

Forrest described seeing much of the same type of devastation in Breezy Point that Kath King reported from her family on Long Island. A senior at Nashoba Regional High School, Forrest worked from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. for two days, hauling filth out of basements.

“You can see how they would think they were never going to get flooded,” given most were a distance from the ocean, Forrest observed. Even those with basement pumps often needed to first complete the backbreaking task of clearing sand from the basement before operating it, he said.

“It was definitely an eye opener to how lucky we are,” Forrest reflected.   “You can’t believe the devastation,” Don Hangen agreed. “It’s the kind of thing no government agency is going to do, no contractor is going to do. All their belongings are soaked. You have to strip the sheet rock off the walls or else it will mold.”

A positive side of the story is the number and diversity of people coming together to help. Many who took part in Mormon Helping Hands were not church members, just those looking for ways to help, Don said. “There was an Islamic relief group that showed up and joined us, about 30 or 40 of them,” he added.

Forrest may travel back down with the group this week. However, he said the church still is working out what it may need to bring for donations, given it brought tools, food, and clothing that was requested for the last trip.

Kath King stressed that Oceanside has been inundated with generosity in the form of food and clothing, and now desperately needs one thing — gift cards. Tools and cleaning supplies are the big bill right now, and gift cards to stores such as Home Depot, CVS, and Target are greatly appreciated, she said. It also saves bringing items down in bulk.

King also said that Oceanside’s large Jewish population will be trying to celebrate Chanukah starting December 8. Some of those gift cards may be greatly appreciated by residents scrambling to have at least small presents for their children.

Any gift cards can be sent to Oceanside Community Service, Inc., c/o Oceanside Union Free School District, 145A Merle Ave., Oceanside, NY, 11572. For more on Oceanside Community Services (which is a tax-exempt organization), visit its page on Facebook.

Looking back, King said, “Growing up, I remember an ice storm being a big deal. And we’ve had hurricanes, but nothing like this.”

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