Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Looking Back on Superstorm Sandy, One Year Later

by Tonya Solis-Mosby, volunteer contributor

The American Red Cross response to Superstorm Sandy
was our largest US relief operation in 5 years.
Her fierce winds rose to 115 miles per hour.  In her wake she left trees splintered and strewn; demolished houses and other buildings; many lives uprooted and at least 285 dead.  She was so much more than the average hurricane. She was called Superstorm Sandy.

As the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating blow to the East Coast on October 29, 2012 approaches, Tom and Jeanne Gargiulo, a Long Island couple, shared recently with Red Cross staff, board members and volunteers their story of survival during a hurricane nightmare.

North Texas Regional CEO T.D. Smyers presents
the Gargiulo's with a framed copy of the poster
they were featured in for the American Red Cross.
“We were shattered,” Mrs. Gargiulo said, adding, “but we weren’t broken.”

Mr. and Mrs. Gargiulo were featured guest speakers for "The Journey Forward," a Sandy Commemoration Forum hosted by the American Red Cross in North Texas last week.  The special event was attended by Red Cross volunteers, board members and community partners.

During their presentation, which included a slide show presentation of the storm damage, Mrs. Gargiulo described her family’s activities in the days prior to the storm hitting Babylon Village where she and her family lived.  She said their efforts weren’t unlike other village residents. They boarded their windows and strategically placed sandbags in an effort to ward off the effects of the storm. But their efforts were in vain. 

“We moved 3 miles away (to her in-laws house),” Mrs. Gargiulo said, “There were electric lines sparking, trees uprooted and what sounded like explosions.  There was also high water.”

Mrs. Gargiulo said 24 hours later, she and her family returned to their home to find it had been filled with about 6 feet of water.  She said it took boats and wading in waist-high water to get through their neighborhood. But before the Gargiulo family and their neighbors could begin to think about repairs, Mother Nature dumped a tremendous snow storm on the area.

“With everything that was going on,” Mr. Gargiulo said, “and all the organizations that came out to help, one organization stood out. It was one of the happiest moments of our lives when that truck drove up with hot meals.”

The truck that Mr. Gargiulo spoke about was an American Red Cross emergency relief vehicle. Aboard that truck was food and drink, but in the days following the storm, the Red Cross also delivered supplies that helped residents sift through the remains of their homes and to keep warm, he said.

“Thank you for being our light in the darkness,” Mrs. Gargiulo said.

Now, one year later, The Gargiulos described their neighborhood as one that is struggling to overcome the devastation.  There are vacant lots and friends and neighbors who have vowed not to return, they said. However, they had the hope of rebuilding their lives in their old neighborhood so they began repairs to their house earlier this year.  Unfortunately, a project to elevate the house failed. The house plummeted from the hydraulics to the ground, causing irreparable damage.  They are slated to begin rebuilding again in a few months.

Larry Mowry, CBS 11 meteorologist & Sandy Forum
speaker poses with Red Cross volunteer Anna.
Also during the forum, T.D. Smyers, North Texas Region Red Cross chief executive officer, facilitated conversations of Hurricane Sandy experiences from DFW-area volunteers who were deployed to the storm-damaged area. Larry Mowry, CBS 11 chief meteorologist, also shared insight on the conditions that made Sandy such a significant storm.  Finally, tips for preparing for hurricanes and tornados, as well as other emergencies, were shared by Red Cross officials and by members of the city and county of emergency response teams, including emergency managers Doug Bass and David McCurdy and Juan Ortiz, and Tarrant County Judge B. Glen Whitley.

Check out more photos from the events in Dallas & Fort Worth on Flickr. Learn more about the American Red Cross' massive response to Superstorm Sandy by reading our one-year report.

Tips for emergency preparedness can be found on the American Red Cross website www.redcross.org/prepare. Safety information is also available on Facebook: RedCrossDFW and Twitter @RedCrossDFW.

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