The PC360 staff is used to hearing and writing aboutcatastrophes, but it is rare for so many of us to be in the middleof a severe weather event ourselves. For those of us who work outof Summit Business Media's Hoboken office, we simply do not see thetypes of extreme weather that many of our readers to the south,west and even north of us regularly contend with.

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So when “Superstorm” Sandy struck, it was jolting for us.Scarier still is the thought that other areas of the country arealmost annually under threat from hurricanes with far higher windspeeds.

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For those of us with access to power and computers, we decidedtake advantage of our firsthand experiences with Sandy by providingimages and accounts of the damage and aftermath.

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We begin with an entry from Mark E. Ruquet, who follows up onhis earlier account of Sandy with an update from Staten Island,N.Y., as well as advice for insurers and officials about properlydisseminating crucial information after a catastrophe.

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When Power and Cell Service Fail, Insurers andOfficials Need to Think Low-Tech

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By Mark E. Ruquet, Associate Editor,PC360

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Reporting from Staten Island, N.Y.

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Above: The scene on Nugent Ave.,Staten Island (Credit: Mark Ruquet, PC360)

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FEMA officials showed up to review our request for assistance.They spent close to two hours reviewing the damage and comforted usas best they could. They said this was their first visit, and theyrealize their work is cut out for them.

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For my car lost in the flood, my insurer is moving quickly andI'm just waiting to have it towed away. There is comfort in knowinghow quickly they can get this all done, but it is also overwhelminghaving to deal with so much at once.

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Our homeowners insurer is getting the thumbs-down. They are notreturning calls and don't appear to be cooperative. There's beenmore help from the agent, but I guess everyone is overwhelmed atthis point.

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Some notes to insurers—don't expect to get phone calls returnedright away. Cell service is improving now, but it was very spottyfor days. The industry really needs to think about this reality andlook into text messaging, or perhaps lower-tech alternatives.

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Communication is important and it seems that we have become soenamored with our electronic devices that we forget they aren'tvery helpful when they simply don't work.

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Both government and private businesses need to get out and getboots on the ground to disseminate information.

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How about some old technology—like leaflets, or just someonegoing around with a loudspeaker telling people where to go forhelp? Word of mouth is the only communication at times, and gettingthe word out is important.

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Getting used to the dark at night is just one of the newrealities we face. Peering down the street, where lights from homesand street lamps went on for blocks, it is now a wall of blackness.The blackness is broken only by the lights of emergency vehicles inthe distance.

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Looting is a major concern. People in the street say thatneighbors had their apartments ransacked the night of the stormafter they ran for their lives. The police are all over, but theycan't be everywhere. Families decide to remain in their homeswithout power for that reason, or because they have nowhere else toturn.

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The cleanup has begun. It is tiring, smelly, dirty work. Withouta generator, getting water out of the home would be impossible. Butthis brings up another concern for many—gas. Just finding it is amajor challenge, and where it can be found, lines are long. Itbecomes an issue of preserving resources and it makes me wonder howsmart those people were driving around a day or two after the stormviewing the damage.

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Small annoyances continue to eat at neighbors. While MidlandAve. has dried up, a storm drain at the corner of Moreland St. doesnot work, and has not worked for years (pictured below). A note toself—need to complain to someone about this, but that will wait.There are more immediate issues.

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Credit: Mark Ruquet,PC360

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There have been a lot of tears and somearguments from those who have to release the stress—and there isplenty of it. The stress of the physical labor; the stress ofgetting in touch with insurers, government and utility companies;the stress of not knowing your future or how you'll pay for all therepairs.

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At least we are alive. There are numerous stories about peoplein the neighborhood who didn't make it. So far, everyone we know issafe. But with the speed the water came in, one can't help butwonder whether in the coming days there will be more bodies.

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Close by, police found an elderly man dead in his home.Neighbors say he had muscular dystrophy and lived alone (picturedbelow, police outside the home on Nugent Ave.).

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Credit: Mark Ruquet,PC360

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The bodies of two young children swept away in a van that was trapped in therushing waters were found the other day. The local paper, TheStaten Island Advance, also reports an elderly couple trapped intheir car was also discovered. The death toll on Staten Island stands at 19, according to a webpositing this morning.

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Lack of Power and Gas a Recipe for Chaos

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By Caterina Pontoriero, Assistant Online FeaturesEditor, PC360

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Reporting from Bergen County, N.J.

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Above: N.J. residents line up forgas as supply dwindles (Credit: Chad Hemenway, PC360)

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It is Friday, Nov. 2, and I was justawoken at 7 a.m. by a police officer with a megaphone right outsidemy house. Cars were parked all the way down my street, waiting inline for the gas station on the main road. Unfortunately, he had todeliver the message that the station did not have any gas, and thatthey did not know when they would get it. I heard a few arguments,which resulted in more yelling into the megaphone explaining thatif they did not move, they would be towed.

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Sandy did not leave much major physical damage in SouthernBergen County, N.J. Surveying the area on Tuesday, we saw manytrees that were uprooted, in some cases, bringing entire sidewalksup with them (pictured below). A lot of those trees brought downpower lines with them, crushed cars, and blocked roads. Thankfullyhowever, we didn't see a lot of destroyed homes. At worst, siding,awnings, shingles, and fences had been blown off, but the buildingswere still intact.

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Credit: Caterina Pontoriero,PC360

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We live along the Passaic River, but the flooding wasn't as badas we had anticipated. The homes along the river (which I've heardare rumored to be worth $0) experienced the type of floodingexpected with a bad storm—in fact, the flooding had been much, muchworse with Irene, with the water traveling up a few blocks towardsthe center of town, not just to the homes along theriverfront.

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However, what we lack in physical damage, Southern Bergen Countyis making up for with total chaos. Almost everyone lost power, andwhile my family was lucky enough to get it back by Tuesdayafternoon, there are many people who are still without power. Iknow a few people who work for the power company, PSE&G, andthey have been working almost non-stop since Sunday. And even thoseof us who do have power aren't 100 percent as cable, internet,phone and cell-phone service remain widely unavailable.

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In addition to those lacking power are those lacking gas (orpanicking about lacking gas). It is impossible to drive anywhere,because there is so much traffic caused by people desperatelytrying to find an open station, and if they do find one, they arelining up and blocking roads (like the very, very narrow sidestreet that I live on). Highways are also a disaster—thecheckpoints at the Lincoln Tunnel allowing only cars with three ormore passengers into New York City are causing traffic to back upmiles and miles all the way onto Route 3 East.

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Right now, I'm stranded in my home. We can't take the carsanywhere because we're saving gas to go out to get essentials (thenearest grocery store is in the next town). My tank is pretty low,but I'm just hoping things will get back to normal before I need towait three hours on line for gas. I will say one thing, though: I'mgrateful that is the biggest concern I have right now, consideringthe devastation we're seeing throughout all the affected areas.

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Sandy Anything but Another Boy Crying Wolf

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By Shawn Moynihan, Executive Managing Editor,National Underwriter P&C

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Reporting from Staten Island, N.Y.

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Above: Midland Avenue, StatenIsland (Credit: Mark Ruquet, PC360)

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“Surreal” is the only word I can find to most accuratelydescribe the whole experience of Hurricane Sandy. Yet it seemsinappropriate somehow. Glib, even. But it's anything but that.

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How else can you describe your reaction to seeing hundreds ofhomes destroyed in your hometown? The gut-wrenching feeling ofknowing 19 people in Staten Island alone have died in what most ofus thought would surely be just another “boy cries wolf” weatherevent like so many hyped by the media? The harrowing sight of somany of your friends and neighbors' dazed looks as they assesstheir damage, some having lost everything?

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It's Sunday, Oct. 28, and I learn NU's Hoboken, N.J., office isalready closed. As I work from home on Monday—my 2-year-old son andmy dog competing for my attention the entire time—you can almostfeel the approaching havoc in the hairs on the back of your neck,the inevitable coming wave as the disconcertingly light rains beginto swirl.

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It's too late now, there's nowhere to run. All we can do is keepour flashlights handy and strap in for the ride. Hopefully, this'llbe like Irene, or my divorce: Noisy, destructive, but overrelatively quickly.

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By Monday evening, it's obvious we've all underestimated Sandy'sstrength. The winds have picked up, and are getting louder. I'mgiving my son Declan a bath and the lights finally wink out at 7:20p.m. Minutes later, my aunt knocks on my apartment door, walks inand straps a small search light on my head. My son finds thishighly entertaining.

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As the winds grow ever louder, the transformer explosionsbegin—but for the most part, you can't hear them. Bright flashesthat you know aren't lightning. One that can't be more than a blockaway, bright as a searchlight. But that one, I hear loud andclear.

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At that point I realize that never in my life have I felt such apowerful instinct that says GET THE HELL AWAY FROM THE WINDOW, NOW.And I follow it.

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The texts begin from my ex-wife, who's determined to stay at ourhouse, which sits on a picturesque wooded street that inevitablygrows sinister in foul weather.

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Tall beautiful trees are all well and good, until you realizeone could fall and smash into your home. And tonight, fall theydo.

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Another hour of darkness, wind and sirens, and my phone'sbattery is dying. People are signing off on Facebook, and afterlearning a good friend and his parents had to be evacuated fromtheir home as the flood waters rose, I decide to follow suit.

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I move my son from the couch into bed, blow out the one candle Istill have lit and finally call it a night, thanking the Lord forsafe, warm shelter. The last image I see before nodding off isan image posted on Facebook of Manhattan Island, dark as Death. TheEmpire State Building and the WTC Memorial provide the sole twopoints of light.

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Dawn. It's 8:30 a.m. Tuesday and eerily quiet outside as I headto my house to survey the damage. A short drive later thedestruction becomes painfully stark. Downed trees and power lineslitter the streets everywhere you look, and not a single businessis open. There's no cell service.

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People are starting to venture out, shell-shocked. Major roadsare underwater. I have to turn around several times, as trees blockmy path. Word spreads that all of the beach communities—of whichthere are many on Staten Island—were swallowed by the risingwaters. Later that day, long lines will start to form forgasoline.

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At my house, at least four trees are either split into pieces ordowned completely. We had just finally found a buyer, a youngcouple—and they're sure to balk now that they can see the apartmentbuilding that faces our yard.

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Still, I know it's a sin to even complain. Our damage is farfrom the worst in my community. I'm already hearing that peoplehave died, a toll that will rise in the coming days. I'm safe, myfamily is safe, and at least the trees didn't smash into the house.Even the cat is OK. I have a lot to be thankful for. And I stillhave some sense of humor left.

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“Bring your pretty face to my axe!!” I shout, echoing the dwarfGimli from “The Lord of the Rings” as I take my first swings atfallen trees. My ex laughs, showing the first smile I've seen onher since I showed up.

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The slow, painful road to recovery has begun.

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As Access to Information Slowly Improves, Sandy Damage BecomesApparent

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By Chad Hemenway, Senior Editor, Markets,PC360

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Reporting from Dover, N.J.

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Above: A tree blocks the road inDover, N.J. (Credit: Chad Hemenway, PC360)

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My family and I were doing well late into Monday as the stormapproached the southern coast of New Jersey. I had just finished aday of working from home. My daughters and I were watching thetrees start to bend sideways out the window from our home in Dover,N.J.

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“How bad is it going to be?” says a Tweet from a friend, whosefamily owns a beach-view restaurant in Cape May, N.J.

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“If what they say CAN happen DOES happen…very bad,” I respond.“Board the windows and leave.”

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Then around 8 p.m. a tree up the street came loose at its baseand fell into the street, knocking out the power. We saw the brightblue flashes and heard the buzz of transformers exploding. A livepower line blew in the strong wind—each time setting off anotherlight show as it hit the wet pavement—until power was cut off to ita short time later, as more lines fell or transfomers blew.

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We got out the candles and flashlights and hunkered down,getting periodic updates via our smartphones while assuaging theworries of the kids—billing darkness as fun.

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Tuesday morning we remained dark. My entire family—brother,sister, mother, in-laws—were in the dark at various locationsthroughout Morris County. Breakfast and lunch was made on the grill(electric stove). The day was full of good news-bad news scenarios:Our power is out but the supermarket is open for food and supplies.The Target is open. So is Home Depot. But I can't work—no Internet;no place to sit and get a signal. And it's starting to getcold.

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We kept getting pictures on our phones from various social mediasites. Immediately, we realize the shore is never going to be thesame. Kim Tallon, our senior copy editor, summed it up best. “Iwant to cry every time I see pics of Pt Pleasant, Seaside orMantoloking,” she writes in an email. “Lots of memories.”

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Our family's home on the bay in Brick, N.J. got about a foot ofwater inside, we find out. It could be worse. Much worse, we findout later.

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I took a ride in the car Tuesday—not knowing at that time therisk of wasting any amount of gas. Trees were down everywhere, someon houses or cars. It remained dangerous to be out. Live wires layin the streets. Telephone poles toppled (pictured below). I gotsome food, and batteries for a radio, and went home.

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Credit: Chad Hemenway,PC360

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Late Tuesday I learned my brother had power. I knew, at least,I'd be able to work Wednesday. Our office in Hoboken was, and stillis, uninhabitable. The city flooded and what's in the water isn'tpretty.

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Wednesday morning, for the first time, I get a real sense of thewidespread damage from the TV news at my brother's house. It'sworse than I thought. Amazing pictures of devastation—to many homesjust repaired from Hurricane Irene a year ago. Places down theshore where generations of our families have vacationed aredestroyed. Houses are off foundations and on highways. Boats arestacked on each other. The city is a mess and the subways arerivers. The office in Hoboken is swamped.

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We find out other little things like the fact that there was nolightning Monday night, as I had thought and Tweeted at onepoint Monday night. Those flashes were transformers blowingeverywhere, reflected in the cloudy sky.

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As more people arrived at the house, it was interesting to seetheir reactions—each one seeing coverage on the TV for the firsttime. I become a valued resource on topics such as hurricanedeductibles and flood insurance and filing claims.

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We realize on Wednesday gas for our cars is going to be aproblem. And others need it for generators, which is theoverwhelming sound since Sandy. Gas stations that have power haverun out and didn't get deliveries. It's a scramble—a game ofchance. Lines to the pumps go on for miles at any station open. Wewere lucky to fill up one of our cars.

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Credit: Chad Hemenway,PC360

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Our power remains out Friday. We have plenty of company in thatboat. We lost some groceries, but there are stores open. Gas mightbe the biggest problem going forward, but I was able to top off onecar and fill two gas cans on Friday. It's cold at night butnothing an extra blanket can't fix. We're lucky.

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Saturday we go down to Brick. “All the carpenting has to beremoved from the house. So look your best!” my father texts, addingthat the subfloor and sheetrock will likely need to be removedtoo. And we need to research a good chemical solution toprevent and/or kill mold.

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“Not bad,” I reply, trying to keep perspective. “We could betrying to find a way to pick up a house from Route 35 and stick itback on its foundation.”

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Sandy Damage Adds to Irene Woes

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By Phil Gusman, Assistant Managing Editor, OnlineNews, PC360

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Reporting from Monroe, N.Y.

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Above: A pine tree uprooted inMonroe, N.Y. (Credit: Phil Gusman, PC360)

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In my corner of Orange County, N.Y., we did not see the inlandflooding we saw during Hurricane Irene, but the area was subjectedto stronger winds than a year ago.

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Last year just after Irene struck, I came home (eventually…Icould not get back into my town the night after the storm and wasforced to turn around) to a ruined neighborhood and a floodedbasement, although my basement flooding was measured in incheswhereas my neighbors contended with four-to-six feet of water. Ihad never noticed before, but my house apparently sits higher thantheirs, and in fact one neighbor was able to save his motorcycle byrunning it up to my stoop and leaving it there until the floodingsubsided. I was told that boats had been patrolling my street toevacuate people. My car, which sat in my driveway (we had taken mywife's car when we left), had been almost entirelysubmerged.

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This year, we all prepared for similar flooding. I bought anextra pump, I emptied my shed, and I got everything in the basementeither off the ground or up to a higher level of thehouse. Some moved their cars to higher ground. My next-doorneighbor had some workers over to take care of his koi pond, as allof his fish had turned up in people's basements after Irene, ifthey had turned up at all.

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But the water never came. Instead we got wind. Not nearly as badas southern New Jersey, or even Long Island, but enough to blowtrees down onto power lines and onto houses (local news reportedthree deaths from falling trees). Today, some surrounding townsstill have traffic lights that are not functioning, and the soundof chainsaws cutting up downed trees fills the air as peoplerecover. Gas lines are getting longer as stations run out; many ofthe cars in line here in New York show New Jersey plates as peoplemigrate from harder-hit towns to find gas. But the immediate areahere certainly is in nowhere near the horrible condition that townsand cities further south find themselves in today, and we're luckyfor that — although I'm sure neighbors dealing with fallen treesand damaged houses a year after contending with flooding from Irenedo not want to hear that.

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For my relatives on Long Island, it's a different story.Luckily, they're not in any areas that were washed away from stormsurge, but they are still without power, and they are nearlyunreachable due to poor cell service. They were also subjected tostronger winds than my area was, and, in the few communications Ihave had with them, I've learned how serious the damage is incertain areas down there, particularly near the coast. I'm thankfulthat my family is safe, though, and I do realize how fortunate I amthat the storm was only a minor inconvenience for me, especially asI see striking images of the damage in other areas.

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In Far Rockaway, Victims Without Voices

By AnyaKhalamayzer, Assistant Editor, Risk,National Underwriter P&C

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Reporting from Far Rockaway, N.Y.

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Credit: Anya Khalamayzer,PC360

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I could say that, for me, as it did for the rest of the coast,Sandy started at the beach. As soon as rain started to drizzle fromthe thick lead sky above my neighborhood on Sunday night, I decidedto go for a run in the storm's foreshadow. My mom, my littlebrother and our dog intercepted me as I looped back toward thehouse.

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“Get in,” said my mom, rolling the window down. “We're going tothe ocean.” Feeling the dramatic weight that covers time whenyou're waiting for something to happen, I grabbed my brother,pointed out across the water and told him, “Look. You will rememberthis for the rest of your life.”

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I could say that Sandy began over the next couple of days whenthe real work started as we cleared trees from the front yard,chopped firewood for warmth and condensed all of our cooked food toprevent it from spoiling in the useless refrigerator.

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Ultimately, Sandy really started for me during an accidentalvolunteer trip to the Far Rockaways.

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There, humanity showed both its faces as people helped oneanother with food and supplies amidst destruction, dust and debris.Meanwhile, others banded together to loot their equally distressedneighbors. There, media coverage was silent, limited to a reporterfrom an independent leftist paper and two Democracy Now! reporterson bicycles scanning the food lines.

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Credit: Anya Khalamayzer

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Help from the city and insurance organizations was non-existentthere. They offered call-in hotlines — a cruel joke as phones werepowerless.

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I spoke to a local mortgage banker, a Rockaway homeowner forthree years. The banker, who did not wish to be named, said that hehad not yet made contact with his insurers — Safeco for homeinsurance and Travelers for flood coverage — about the extensiveclaims that he'll have to make on the house.

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“There is no gas and no phone service. The government ofManhattan and the services do not care about this part of town,” hesaid. “Nobody's come by to help me — not the police, not theinsurance representatives, no one.

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“Two days ago, finally, someone knocked on the door. It was thefire department, asking if we'd had a gas leak.”

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The insurance company needs him to call for a claim, he said. Doyou have cell service? I asked. No, he replied. Can he drive to acall center? There is no gas for miles. Besides, he told me, theentire block was looted two days ago, and he lost his electricguitars, a television, his silver and his computer.

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“I guarantee you that if I leave my house for any period oftime, everything will be gone when I return. Although some say thisarea is sketchy, or it's the city's dumping ground, I see thepotential here. Every morning I can come out here on my porch witha newspaper and enjoy my coffee by the ocean.”

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After being inundated by Sandy's flooding, the tap water isunsafe to use for coffee, and a huge hole has formed below the deckof the house, exposing a precarious tangle of roots and pipes.“Ironically,” said the banker, “this street isn't even in a floodzone.”

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Up the street on Rockaway Beach Blvd., grocery-store owner AliAbdulla peers through the padlocked window of his ruined shop.People are lined up outside, sliding dollar bills through a slitnear the door to purchase what is left of soggy cigarettes anddented soda cans.

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Ali lets me inside, where staff members wearing headlamps in thenoonday darkness sit atop still-drenched aisles of food.

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“The hurricane started on Sunday evening,” said Abdulla, who hasowned the store for just over three years. “By nightfall, I wassitting on the roof [of the store], trying not to drown because thewater had come up so high.”

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He said, “I've lost everything: $10,000 in cigarettes alone, and$150,000 in total merchandise and damages. I can't file a claimbecause I have no phone service; I'm afraid to leave becausesomeone tried to loot me at 6 p.m. last night. And I can't get helpfrom FEMA because I have to dial a number. Otherwise, the only helpI can get is food from a soup line.”

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Another elderly local resident, a woman named Isabelle Diaz, hasowned her Rockaway home for 10 years. She has insurance but doesn'texpect any monetary reprieve because the damage to her house mostlyresulted from post-Sandy flooding. She says, “I've been away at myrelative's house all last week, and I returned to looting and a bigmess. We aren't as populated as the other boroughs, so I mostly seepeople turning to one another for help.”

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It's hard to measure how long the solidarity of a communityexperiencing shock will last, and as the days pass without gas,potable water or word of when the power will be back on, people arebecoming increasingly desperate.

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What I saw in the Far Rockaways has all the makings of aman-made tragedy, unless the city and national insurers startpaying attention to the silence on the coast.

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