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Friday, August 1, 2014

The storm next time

At the end of next month, the media will focus their attention on the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy. There will be stories galore about the work of first responders, cleanup efforts and the rebirth of many businesses in the wake of the storm. Hopefully there will be another type of story, telling how large numbers of people still have not been able to get back into their homes, and how their lives are very much a continuing disaster.

Thanks to an enormous amount of aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, many local governments have been showered with money to rebuild streets and municipal buildings and restore their battered parks and beaches. While much of the FEMA aid has reached the cities, towns and villages in this region, the number of people whose lives are still being disrupted hasn’t been calculated or published.

There have been plenty of stories about families that managed to escape death during this tragic episode, but there haven’t been an equal number of stories about the families who still can’t go home, who have been kicked around by their insurance companies or who have given their lifelong savings to unscrupulous contractors who stole the money. Those stories aren’t just post-storm tragedies. They’re warning signs for the next major storm, which is destined to happen.

Take a ride down any street in places like Long Beach and you’ll find homes still boarded up, and destined to stay that way. Some homeowners don’t have the money to rebuild because their assistance from FEMA or payments from their insurance companies aren’t enough to get the required work done. New flood requirements that homes in certain shore areas have to be elevated have added a new level of cost that a lot of homeowners just can’t afford. So the solution becomes simple: abandon the house and try to sell the land.

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