By Hannah Reich Berman
It has been more than six weeks since the hurricane known as Sandy devastated our area. Of course, it was not just our area. The flooding produced by the storm devastated a vast portion of the Northeast corridor and cut a swath across several states. Human nature being what it is, however, I tend to concentrate on what is all around me, which is why I think mainly about our area. It should also be understood that the reference to our area essentially means my area. This is not to say that, along with thousands of others, I am not deeply saddened and horrified when I hear about those who are still suffering the effects of the storm. It’s impossible to open a newspaper or turn on the television without reading, hearing, or seeing evidence of Sandy’s lasting effects. Because it is so overwhelming, I try to divert my attention from it and force myself to focus on other things. But that isn’t working out well.
Each time I meet someone I haven’t seen since October 29, the same question arises: “How’d you do?” Now and then, presumably for the sake of variety, the question is phrased as “So, how’d you make out?” Explanations are unnecessary. Everyone knows what the questions refer to. No one has forgotten what it was like in the aftermath of the storm. It will be a long time before that happens. Most people ask questions out of a sincere concern for the other’s welfare. But some ask it because it will give them an opportunity to vent about their own hardships. I would love to put my personal losses behind me and to focus on helping those who were less fortunate. But putting it behind me doesn’t seem to be a viable option. How could it be, when the question comes up at least once a day and forces me to go back in time? Going backwards is rarely a good thing.
The month of October has taken on a new significance. It has always been a beautiful autumn month, a time when it is no longer overly warm and not yet very cold. In previous years, October was a month that was easy on the finances, since by then air conditioning units are shut off and heating systems not yet turned on. All that changed last year when, in October, we had a major snowfall in the New York area. It was a winter storm and it took everyone by surprise, since we don’t usually see those until December. Yet that snowfall in 2011 was child’s play compared to what we just witnessed.
Despite the fact that October is considered prime hurricane season, many of the hurricanes make an appearance in September or very early in October. This one fooled us all. And it fooled us in more ways than one. It wasn’t wind that did direct damage to our homes. Nor was the rain responsible for all the heartache and hardship. It was what the wind did to the Atlantic Ocean that caused the trouble. Water spilled over from the ocean and found its way into the many small, seemingly innocuous, bodies of water that populate the south shore of Nassau County. It wasn’t until I looked at Google Earth that I learned the geographical facts of life—or at least the geographical facts of my life. I had no idea how many rivers, streams, ponds, bays, gulfs, inlets, creeks, and canals surround us. Like most people, I paid little attention to them. I have changed my tune. I will pay attention to them in the future.
Another topic of conversation around here these days is flood insurance. And that brings us to a second most-oft-asked question, “Did you have flood insurance?” Everyone has become an expert on the topic. The problem is that much of the information being bandied about by these newly minted experts is contradictory. Here’s a small sampling of the chatter:
People who had flood insurance didn’t do as well as those who did not have it. Insurance companies don’t pay out much for floods. And if you had flood insurance, you could not collect from FEMA because FEMA doesn’t want anyone to double-dip, so they would not compensate you for flooding if you were insured for it. I have a mortgage so I had to have flood insurance. My mortgage is paid off so I did not need to have it and, since it was so expensive, I dropped it. FEMA has announced that if a homeowner does not take out flood insurance they will not give that homeowner any money the next time this happens.
Comments such as these are sometimes made by people who know what they’re talking about. Unfortunately, they are also being made by people who have no idea what they’re talking about. But, for me, the words that resonate the most are “the next time this happens.” If I thought this might happen again, I would consider moving to a land-locked state. Possibly I should hire a moving van now, because it could happen again. After all, we never thought it would happen this time, so why not again?
Come next September, I intend to be more vigilant. I will listen to all weather bulletins and pay rapt attention to any warnings. If it is suggested that we do so, I will evacuate and I will do it in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, it’s unclear to me how evacuating will help to stave off the inevitable. Unless I pick my house up and move it or possibly have my house built up higher, as some people are currently contemplating doing, there isn’t much that can be done to protect my home. Something tells me that if, heaven forbid, this should happen again, we will all be walking around weeks later asking, “How’d you do?” People don’t forget and they don’t allow others to forget. That’s the way it is. v
Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at Savtahannah@aol.com or 516-902-3733.