Former New Yorker eyes Sandy’s effects from afar

By Tammy Keith Published November 15, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.
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— Michaela Fraser, 23, of Conway kept in touch with her parents in Long Beach, N.Y., leading up to Hurricane Sandy, but on Oct. 29, “I knew it was bad,” she said.

“It was pretty scary because I was seeing it online, but with cellphone service down, it was hard,” she said.

The Hendrix graduate, who works on campus as part of a fellowship, grew up in Long Beach.

“It’s a very tight-knit community. People live there for generations. My parents grew up there, and I have cousins nearby,” she said.

When the storm moved through, the area was devastated — the word “catastrophic” was used in one Associated Press article.

“My parents — the whole basement was destroyed and the first floor of the house. The first floor didn’t have such horrible damage, but all the wood floor had to be ripped out, and they’re going to have to redo the dry wall. Some appliances will have to be replaced,” Fraser said.

The backyard and decking on the house are ruined, she said.

“Damagewise, we were pretty lucky compared to some of our neighbors,” Fraser said.

Her parents’ cars were ruined, as were most residents’, Fraser said, from either water or sand damage.

“The bay met the ocean — the whole island was covered. The winds were really bad, so a lot of trees are down. There was 6 or so feet of sand in the streets and people’s houses. The scariest thing is, whole blocks of houses caught on fire,” she said.

Her uncle’s surf shop was heavily damaged in another part of town. A cousin’s home was destroyed, and the family moved in with Fraser’s grandparents, who live 30 minutes from Long Beach.

“They’re pretty good copers. My mom is a public schoolteacher, so she’s trying to help them decide what to do with the schools. They just had a districtwide meeting,” Fraser said last week.

Fraser’s father works in human resources for a small business that does international credit-card processing. The first story of that office building is unusable, she said.

As New York struggled to cope with one blow, a snowstorm hit the state shortly after the hurricane.

“Because we’re so close to the water, we don’t get a lot of snow,” Fraser said. “To get a snow storm this early is pretty tough.”

Her parents have a generator, she said, but not everyone was as lucky.

Cellphone service is back, but parts of the area were still without power earlier this week, according to news wire reports.

“At first, I might get a text or a picture every once in a while,” Fraser said. “The people in town have no way of knowing what’s going on. They’re sort of isolated.

“I was their source of information. I would be finding out about stuff online, that the water quality was safe, that the National Guard was coming.”

“It’s getting better, but it’s hard when the local government doesn’t have power, and they also don’t have access to Internet.”

Fraser said hurricanes have hit Long Beach before, “but usually we just get big waves, and the surfers are happy,” she said.

When Hurricane Irene hit, most of the flooding was minor, although her best friend’s home had severe flooding.

“They finished renovating two days before Sandy. That was a little traumatic for that family,” Fraser said.

“It was definitely the worst thing I’ve had to deal with, and I’m not even there.”

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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