Hurricane Sandy (7), going into the 'war zone' of Far Rockaway
Far Rockaway - Queens - New York City - NY Travel Blog› entry 887 of 1090 › view all entries
In the past days I have shown some pictures and images and shared some impressions of hurricane Sandy and of its effects. Today I have witnessed the real power of Sandy. Impressions which I will never forget.
As stated in a previous blog some colleagues of mine were hit by Sandy. One of them had indicated he could use some help. And today I, as well as five colleagues, headed into one of the parts of New York City where Sandy had hit hardest: Far Rockaway. Rockaway is a tiny island at the coast of Long Island. Those who flew in on JFK Airport and looked outside have probably seen it. Unlike Coney Island, Rockaway is still a real island, although connected to Long Island via three access points (see my blog here).
After some of us gathered at the APG office we headed to Queens. During our drive to Rockaway we constantly saw the same image at gas stations: either a deserted station with huge signs "No Gas" or a gas station with huge lines of at one side cars and at the other side people with all kind of jerry cans. Today I heard that the waiting time is now six (!!!) hours in some cases.
At the causeway that also leads to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the scenery started to change. The traffic lights were not working again, plastic and other waste was visible in fences in a straight line, indicating that the water level had been higher than the roof of our car recently.
Then we all of a sudden entered the "war zone".
A different type of shocker: the MTA, who owns the bridge to the island was still charging tolls to people entering and leaving the island. SHAME ON YOU MTA!!!! Nobody is going or leaving here for fun now!
After the bridge, when we entered the island, we could not believe our eyes. Yes, we had seen the photos, we had seen the TV.
When we arrived at the house of the colleague, who lives one block away from the ocean front, we found a huge section of the Rockaway Boardwalk almost in his front yard, on top of some cars. Like with the fences another scar line, now with mud, at the height of my shoulders marked how high the water had been in his house. At least 1.
When I stepped into the house it smelled like I stepped on the beach. Salty water and sand. He lost everything on the ground floor and in the basement. His plasterboard walls and his wooden floor were soaked. This was heart wrenching.
Together with some family members and a fireman who came to volunteer, we worked all day to remove everything from his house's ground floor and basement: walls, isolation, furniture, several layers of wooden floor, the kitchen, refrigerator, gas cooker, pool table, etc. etc. In the meantime we used a generator driven pump to get rid of the last gallons of sea water inside the house.
During my "lunch break" I walked a few blocks along the sandy (how could they name this hurricane Sandy?) roads towards the boardwalk, seeing more shocking things.
We worked till sunset. When we drove back to Manhattan, muddy and tired, I saw that the major part of Manhattan's south tip had power again. At least some progress for these New Yorkers. The people in Rockaway will probably have to go through a lot more pain and work before they too can say that the Sandy era is history.
More pictures below! (Taken with my Blackberry).