Standing just a few feet from an 8-foot-tall pile of debris at the end of Louisiana Street, Cheryl Ives paused for a moment as her neighbors carried large pieces of sheetrock, soggy insulation and endless bags of trash from water-logged homes on a bright Saturday afternoon.
Residents described a frightening, 10-foot wall of water that flooded the West End in seconds when Hurricane Sandy hit last week. Many took refuge on the second floor of their homes, only to watch their belongings float away.
On Louisiana, a sand hill blasted ashore by the storm surge buried cars on top of one another. Like many residents of the street, a small enclave with a high concentration of police officers and firefighters, Ives faced the daunting task of cleaning out her home.
“We waited the storm out, and when the storm was over, we assessed the damage, and we just don’t truly yet know what all the damage is,” she said, adding that more than anything, residents are looking for answers. “We’ve been frustrated, without any communication from the outside world because we have no cell or computer. We need communication, we need gas and we need our water back.”
With no word on when power would be restored — especially in the West End and the Canals — and unsure of the extent of the damage to her home, Ives grew teary-eyed. “Trying to get in touch with FEMA … your flood, your homeowner’s [insurance], makes it very difficult,” she said. “My basement … I don’t know. I keep hearing stories, and it’s frightening because we’re hearing stuff like, ‘Are they going to level the town? Are they going to condemn your home? You’re going to be out of here for three months.’ Three months is OK, I can do three months — I can do something temporary — but it’s our town, it’s our block.”
Nicole Pelletiere, 25, who lives on Vermont Street with her fiancé, said that her home is “unlivable.” “At the brunt of the storm … the water started to come into the house through the floorboards,” she recounted. “It rose pretty quickly, and it was very dark outside. You could actually hear the water guzzling into the house. As frightened as we were, we said to each other, ‘Well, we aren’t going anywhere, so let’s just throw on wetsuits, hunker down and wait for the water to recede.’”