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The devastation and misery brought on by Hurricane Sandy will live on in the hearts and minds of Queens residents for decades to come. In modern times, it compares only to 2005’s Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, which left 1,836 people dead.
But in terms of preparation and response, Sandy was everything the Katrina fiasco wasn’t. Based on forecasts from the National Weather Service, New Yorkers were warned that a “frankenstorm” was coming. Residents had time to evacuate and stock up on bottled water and anything else they might need.
The cooperation on the federal, state and local levels was extraordinary. On Sunday night, 24 hours before Sandy hit, President Barack Obama, at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, declared New York state a Federal Disaster Area. By then it was clear the damage from Sandy would be catastrophic. This cut the red tape in getting disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A week before the storm struck, trucks from power companies in Detroit and California were on their way to the city. The crews who would help millions start to get their power back arrived Sunday.
Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg were a team. The city anticipated the dangers facing people living near the water, set up shelters inland and ordered mandatory evacuations.
During the worst of the storm, first responders rescued thousands from their homes and motorists stranded in their cars. Cuomo sent in the National Guard and Obama sent the Army Corps of Engineers to pump water from flooded tunnels.
But no one anticipated the devastation in Breezy Point, where waves and fires destroyed as many as 100 homes. With winds whipping around them, 190 firefighters dragged fire hoses through chest-deep water in a futile effort to put out the blazes.
The fires erupted around 11 p.m. Monday night. When the sun came up Tuesday morning, Breezy Point looked like a war zone.
Our heart goes out to the people of Breezy Point and those left homeless by Sandy, but we know Breezy Point will come back. The people of Queens are fighters and in a disaster they pull together.
On the day after the storm, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted that “sorrow should not replace resilience.” That applies to Queens.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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