To truly comprehend the destruction of Sandy, one needs to view before/after photos.
The town in the pictures is very small. Only 2.5 miles long. Of the 500 homes that were there, more than 200 were literally swept away by the ocean. Of those remaining, more than 100 are no longer livable. The town has been decimated. Fortunately everyone evac’ed prior to the storm. It was a high-rent district town before Sandy came through.
The destruction hasn’t been just roads and bridges and houses and businesses. All the natural areas along the coast and bays were severely damaged as well. There hasn’t been much ink about them since they are not places populated by people. The national and state parks, the wildlife preserves. They are all closed indefinitely. Wildlife rescues are still occurring. It’s not just bird nesting grounds and fish and turtles affected. Deer and red foxes live there as well. They have all lost their homes too. We lost a lot of mature trees. Mother Nature will need 10 years or more to restore itself, longer than man can rebuild buildings and roads. And still, it won‘t be like it was before Sandy. We literally have less landmass – and some new inlets. The wild ones have no use for Architectural Digest. Their homes will not be easily rebuilt.
The natural spaces of the national and state park have always been faves of mine since during tourist season they don’t attract the obnoxious tourists. There are no shops or games or eateries. There’s beach and picnic areas and bike paths and fishing areas. And in the off-season they are peaceful refuges to wander. At the national park they used to have summer concerts on the beach. They’d erect a stage on the beach, even a dance floor if you felt moved to dance. I headed from the office (brought a change of clothes that day), brought a beach chair, a cooler and watched the waves roll in while the sun went down and listened to a live band. It was the shore version of ‘concert in the park’. The state park was glorious for the huge sand dunes you had to go over to even see the ocean. And deep sandy beaches. The wildlife preserves have wooden walkways through the trees and you don’t feel as if you’re at the shore at all.
While most roads have been cleared and electricity restored, we’re still a long way from having our lives back to normal. All seasonal activities have either been postponed or cancelled, mail is being rerouted, some towns still have curfews imposed, access restricted to some towns, ids are being checked, schools have new schedules, students reshuffled, some people will be living without heat for at least another month. And while I sound like a Stark from Game of Thrones, “Winter is coming.“ We’ve already had snow and I haven’t seen snow this early in the year in this part of the state in almost 20 years. We usually don’t have a hard frost until mid-December. The leaves are still on the trees and some are still mowing their lawns.
We’re all working as quickly as possible to restore as many basics as possible before winter – only managed with the additional help by utility workers and police from other states – from New Hampshire to Florida. Retirees were called in by the natural gas company to check for leaks to prevent further catastrophic damage. And we’ve had volunteers to help residents clean out walls and floors from as far away as Tennessee. They probably never even knew or even imagined what our coast looked like before Sandy. Locally we’ll be getting assistance from California for the schools. Soup kitchens have sprouted up in every town working every day feeding locals, volunteers, the Guardsmen. Donations of food and clothing have been overwhelming coming from all over the country. Last week I was working with shoreupnj sorting the donations. I will be there again this week. They even called me yesterday hoping they could still count on my help this week. Don’t know what I’ll find this week or what I’ll be doing.
The wildlife may adapt to the new landscape without hardship. As for the people, we will mourn the landscape for the rest of our lives. Sandy has changed our way of life at the shore for a long, long time. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to enjoy a funnel cake on the boards next summer and imbibe at the Tiki again. The Tiki took a beating and they had replaced the thatched roofs years ago. We’ll see what the next incarnation will look like. They have to rebuild. Because it’s one of our icons and there are so many memories….