Received by iPhone from Peggy Frontera. (She and her husband, Peter, have a second home at Tunis Lake):
We were most definitely in Hurricane Sandy’s path as we live in Belle Harbor, Rockaway, which is a 3-4 block wide peninsula with the bay on one side and the ocean on the other. Many of my family members either live in Rockaway or Breezy Point which was also devastated by Sandy. Breezy Point lost 111 homes to fires and no one is allowed to live in their homes in Breezy at this time. My family in Belle Harbor all stayed through the hurricane. I have never left my home for any hurricane over the last 41 years and have never had so much as a drop of water in my home.
This storm was like no other. Electricity and cell service were lost very early in the storm. Texting was the only means of communication and it was minimal for several days after the hurricane. During the surge the bay met the ocean in a matter of minutes. At the height of the surge, fires started to break out from transformer boxes exploding and the sparks being driven by the 80-90 mph winds. Our basement flooded instantly after the new window on the ocean side of our home was pushed in by the force of the water. At the height of the surge we needed to move to the second floor of our home as the water was rising rapidly. The water on our street was anywhere from 7-10 feet deep with a current like a raging river. When the water reached 3-4 feet our car alarms started to go off and the windows and trunks filled with water which very quickly reached the roofs.
It was by far the longest night of our lives just watching the fires and the rising water. The water slowly receded after high tide and by early morning all that was left in our street was tons of sand and lots of debris. It looked like the Apocalypse. We were all grateful to be alive and to still have a house that was standing but not livable. We lost 3 cars, a van, a motorcycle and a sailboat, as well as anything in our basement and what was in our garage, but we were alive!
We had no help from city services for several days: no gasoline, no electricity, no drinkable water and no heat. By the generosity of many extended family, friends and neighbors bringing gasoline and generators we were able to start the slow process of pumping out our basements and gutting our homes. Our beach parking lots have turned into landfills to bring all the debris that was in the streets and in people’s homes. The good news is that my home was deemed structurally sound by the building department. We needed all new electrical service and hot water heater and furnace. We got electricity two days ago and hopefully will have heat by Thanksgiving. Although we stayed in our home for 4 days after the storm, it became much too cold so my entire family rented a house in Brooklyn so that we could spend our days in Rockaway working on our homes. I cannot begin to tell you the incredible support we got from people in the outer boroughs who came for many days after the storm by bicycle or volunteer vans to help us. They bought cleaning supplies, water, food, baby formula, diapers, blankets, etc. It was overwhelming. It will take time for the Rockaways, Belle Harbor, and Breezy Point to come back, but there is great community spirit and I know it will be back better than ever!
Received from their Maplewood, N.J. home in an email from David Capps (he and his wife, Gina Lefferts, have a home up the Bullet Hole. He is chair of the Hunter College Dance Program. Gina teaches music at a private school near Maplewood, N.J.):
Our experience, in the scheme of things, was quite mild. A few days without power, but we had a generator for backup and our fireplace insert helped keep us warm. Gina even put together a fairly fancy meal for a family who was also out of power but was in the midst of a kitchen renovation so they had almost nothing to cook with. We did host a young student couple for a few days who were out of power and water. The experience in the village was notable for many of us — we were lucky that our village center never lost power (everyone is mystified) so that there were services there that many people enjoyed. There are a number of houses around that will need extensive repair and there are still wires down in places, but normalcy is returning, especially since the commuter trains are now back. I got to take a ferry across the Hudson a few times, quite a glorious view of the city, and a lovely way to start/end the day (despite the ridiculous traffic to get there). Some of the trees that went down were clearly at least 100 years old. Huge trunks are piled up. We spent a lot of the weekend harvesting next year’s firewood from Gina’s school grounds. Certainly the are so many areas that have suffered much more loss. Belle Harbor, Staten Island, etc. — but we haven’t actually been there. ~