ERT Trip to Staten Island in response to SuperStorm Sandy
On December 2, 2012, an Emergency Response Team from St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church in Bowie traveled to Staten Island, New York to assist with the damage done by SuperStorm Sandy. The team was led by Peter Saderholm and included our pastor Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, her husband Anthony, the Missions Chairperson Pattie Klein, the Membership Chairperson Karen Hastings, a Trustee Chuck McClurg, and Roy Hakes. We were hosted by Pastor Matt Schaefer and the Congregation of Bethel United Methodist Church in Tottenville, Staten Island.
Our efforts focused on the New Dorp Beach area of Staten Island. This low-lying area of beach homes is converted into year-round residences that are immediately adjacent to the beach. This area of about ten blocks wide and five blocks deep contained several hundred homes inundated during the storm. Some were partially destroyed and cannot be rebuilt. Others had been lifted off their foundations and repair is doubtful. However, most were just inundated by the tidal wave and are repairable after major gutting and cleaning. Our work was coordinated by a supervisor from Bethel UMC and he did a super job.
Most of these homes are relatively small and on small lots, but they are well built. The water levels reached 6-7 feet in the homes, which have a first floor that is normally about 3 feet above grade. The repair process is long and labor intensive. First, everything in the home needs to be removed, includeing personal items, furniture, cabinets, appliances, furnaces, and plumbing fixtures. In this case, these items are deposited on the street in front of the home and are removed by the Sanitation Department. The next step is to remove all the interior walls to include the dry wall and sometimes the ceilings, the insulation, and most of the electrical wiring. As part of this process the interior framework needs to cleaned of all screws, nails, pieces of paper from insulation bats and any other item that could hide mold. Then the floor ps removed and the inside of the home cleaned of all debris. All this material is also placed on the street in front of the home for removal. Next, the entire inside of the home needs to be power washed in order to remove any existing mold. Once this is done, the interior framework is disinfected with a powerful solution. After the home dries, it can be rebuilt.
Several homes are being worked on simultaneously and our team performed most of these activities on various homes during our three days of effort. We power washed and disinfected. This needs to be done in a wet suit and with a good mask and goggles. We completed the removal of walls and the removal of all nails and screws. This requires a lot of kneeling and ladder work and attention to assure that all wall debris is removed. Gloves and masks are important. We cleaned up a home in preparation for power washing. This is just plain dirty work and sometimes requires you to get back into tight spaces. We also cleaned up a big yard that is planned to be a staging area for future work efforts.
Most of the homes in this entire community were vacant and unoccupied. We did meet a few residents who were also working on their homes or came by to see how our work was progressing. It is depressing to think about the tragedy of the disruption on people’s lives caused by this type of storm. However, it is a joy to see the smile in their eyes as they begin to see progress on their home and their community. It will take a long time to rebuild this area because there is not a lot of work being performed. We were the only team working on our block of homes.
Our team worked hard for three days and on Wednesday, we departed. Some might say you can stay longer but we were ready to go home. The size of our team was perfect. We traveled essentially in two vehicles, one pulling the Conference Disaster Trailer. We were conveniently housed in a home in Tottenville. A bigger group would have had to stay in the church. It was easy to feed us. Our team’s size was large enough to take on a variety of tasks but small enough to be readily supervised. This can be a very moving experience for people and it was for our team. It is important to stay in prayer and to stay focused. It is important to limit the length of the stay. However, it is also very important to go and do this work. For me it was probably my eighth disaster recovery trip but for most, it was their first. To a person they would go again, time permitting.
Jan 9, 2013