Sarah D’Andrea was having a typical Wednesday, food shopping at Wegman’s, when she got an unexpected phone call.
On Oct. 24, the 22-year-old National Guard private was told that her unit was on standby to help with an impending hurricane, which threatened most of the northeast coast.
“We got the call three days later that our unit was getting sent down to Nassau County to help,” D’Andrea said. “It was the day before the storm struck.”
Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern seaboard Oct. 29, wreaking havoc on New York and New Jersey.
The late-season Atlantic cyclone tore through the region with heavy rains and high winds. According to CNN.com, the fastest wind gusts were clocked at 90 mph in Islip, N.Y. A high tide associated with the full moon contributed to the powerful storm surge, recorded in Kings Point, N.Y. at a whopping 14.32 feet.
Stationed in Long Beach, N.Y., D’Andrea described the scene after the hurricane as catastrophic.
“The beach front is gone,” D’Andrea said. “There are feet upon feet of sand in the roads, trees down everywhere, this area is really bad.”
D’Andrea said that 60 Guardsmen from her unit were sent to the affected areas.
“We took a convoy out the night of the storm and worked with Nassau County police and firefighters,” D’Andrea said. “We had a lot of distress calls from people stuck in their houses with feet of water in them, sometimes we literally had to carry them out and bring them to shelters.”
As of Nov. 3, the death toll from Hurricane Sandy was 106 people. In addition to power outages and flooding, fire became an issue as flames broke out across damaged areas.
“Houses and cars were catching on fire,” D’Andrea said. “Electric transformers were exploding everywhere, we were driving around picking them up. Some of the streets were flooded with four feet of water.”
CNN estimated that the damage from the hurricane would reach $50 billion. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved $107 million in insurance for people affected by the disaster. According to FEMA’s website, as of Nov. 3, 122,000 people had registered for disaster insurance. In New York, over 69,000 people registered for insurance. $75 million has been approved as of Nov. 3.
FEMA’s website describes the need for fuel in affected areas as “a top priority.” The website says that the Defense Logistics Agency has purchased 12 million gallons of unleaded fuel and 10 million gallons of diesel fuel for distribution in areas impacted by the storm. As of Nov. 3, there are 10 fuel sites placed throughout New York and New Jersey where people can receive emergency fuel to power cars and generators. They have an online application for aid as well as a phone line to request funds.
The Red Cross is helping to provide food and shelter for people whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by the storm. According to the Red Cross website, 9,000 people stayed in 171 Red Cross shelters in 13 on Oct. 30, the day after the hurricane struck. As of Nov. 3, they have provided 23,000 people with overnight shelter in the North Atlantic.
In the streets of New York, National Guard troops are helping distribute supplies to residents.
“We’ve been doing patrols distributing food, water and supplies,” D’Andrea said. “We’ve been doing patrols to clear roads and set up places for people to vote, pretty much anything to help.”
Upstate New York was also affected by the hurricane. An estimated 420,000 homes lost power Oct. 30 as a result of the hurricane, closing schools and causing Cayuga, Chenango and Wayne County to declare a state of emergency. Classes at Oswego State were cancelled for the first time in four years.
Hurricane relief efforts have sprung up across the country. Both the Salvation Army and the Red Cross offer a service, which allows people to donate $10 to relief efforts by texting, their number. The Red Cross held a benefit concert, which aired on NBC Friday night. The concert, featuring performances by Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Christina Aguilera and more, raised over $23 million.
Even the cast of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” is getting into the relief efforts for their TV hometown, which was damaged during the hurricane. MTV announced plans for a one-hour fundraiser special called “Restore the Shore” to air Nov. 15, with profits going to restore Seaside Heights, N.J., where some seasons of the show are filmed.
In the Syracuse area, relief efforts for the hurricane are growing. Churches, schools and local branches of the Red Cross are collecting donations of money, food and supplies for storm victims. Danielle Cummings, assistant chancellor of the Diocese of Syracuse, said that Catholic churches in the Syracuse area are working to raise money for the effort.
“We’ve invited all 133 parishes to take up second collections during the month of November for the Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund through Catholic Charities,” Cummings said. “We are quite confident that money raised will be quite substantial and it is so desperately needed in the stricken areas.”
At Oswego State, where many students come from the New York City area, students have started fundraisers to help. Oswego’s chapter of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity held a fundraiser Friday in the Campus Center. The members collected donations of money and offered candy to donors. Anthony Lombardi, engineering leadership director of Delta Sigma Phi, said that they raised $254 from the event.
“It’s close to home for a lot of us,” Lombardi said of the destruction from the hurricane. “Too many brothers to count are from that area or have family there.”
Lombardi said that the fraternity plans on collecting cans and toiletries outside of local grocery stores through Nov. 19.
“We have big plans this month,” Lombardi said. “We want to help as many people as we can.”
D’Andrea says that she was not sure when she will be sent home.
“We are going on a day to day basis,” D’Andrea said. “We have no timeline whatsoever, we got here the day before the storm and we are still here.”
D’Andrea said that although she had not slept for more than five hours in the past 53 hours, she could not have been happier to be there.
“I was so excited when I got the call,” Andrea said. “Helping people, being part of it, this is what I’m here for.”