On Staten Island, the slow, cold, pace of recovery

Sat Nov 3, 2012 8:01pm EDT
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By Jeanine Prezioso and Joseph Ax

STATEN ISLAND, New York (Reuters) - Six days after Sandy battered Staten Island's coast, some people are realizing that the massive storm's 20-foot (6-metre) waves and 14-foot (4.2-metre) surge changed the landscape of their lives for good.

For many residents of this hard-hit area, Saturday was the new normal: another day consumed by the arduous task of cleaning up the damage left behind, and planning for a way to stay warm come nightfall.

In the Midland Beach, South Beach and New Dorp neighborhoods, residents piled belongings high at the ends of their driveways, stacking water-logged furniture and ruined dishwashers alongside mud-soaked clothing, broken glass and piles of insulation pulled out of their flooded basements.

George Harrison, 39, waited for a Federal Emergency Management Agency inspector to come to his home on Grimsby Street, five blocks in from Father Capodanno Boulevard, a stretch of road that runs flush with the ocean's shore, where houses stood boarded up. A five-foot (1.5-meter) wall of water that was powerful enough to force his garage door open left Harrison's house in shambles.

He and his wife, Eileen, had masks hanging around their necks that they had used to shield them from the stench of raw sewage when they entered their house.

"Everything can be replaced," he said. "My family's safe, that's all that matters."

Others were not so lucky. A few blocks away on the same street, some elderly neighbors who chose to ride out the storm were found dead, Harrison said. In all, at least 20 Staten Island residents have died from Sandy, roughly half the total for the city.

Late Saturday afternoon, people took debris and started burning it to keep warm as temperatures dropped.   Continued...

A woman stands alone in water in front of destroyed homes on Cedar Grove Avenue in a neighborhood where many houses were heavily damaged or completely destroyed by storm surge flooding from Hurricane Sandy on the south side of the Staten Island section of New York City, November 1, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar