By Anessa V. Cohen
What’s there to say about the aftermath of this storm? So many things come to mind—shock at the sheer size of the destruction wreaked by this phenomenon of nature, of the turmoil created in the lives of so many living in our community, and the nearly two weeks of living in the dark, with no electricity, no heat, long lines at the gasoline stations, and then if this was not enough, the final indignity—a snowstorm!
The morning after the storm, I found myself outside with my neighbors, and after comparing notes, walking up and down the block trying to get cell-phone service. We probably all looked pretty ridiculous walking up and back and passing each other on the street with our phones in the air, but how else would we be able to call and check on other family members and call emergency services? All that walking around really did not help much, but that did not stop us from trying to get that elusive better signal. If we were successful for that minute or two, we tried making phone calls to our insurance companies to call in claims. This was a complicated feat, since most of the time we lost the signal before someone answered the phone or we got past the automated systems.
After a couple of hours we all realized that now we had used up most of the juice we had in those cell phones and we had no way to recharge. We certainly did not think electricity would be out more than a few hours—in a worst-case scenario, a day or two at most. One of the neighbors had started their generator and was openhanded with sharing his wealth, and we put a power strip on it and started taking turns charging our phones.
Well, as we all know, the electricity did not come back on, and the next day found those with borrowed or rented cars (those who were wise enough to rent cars immediately already had them in place the second day after the storm) sitting with the cars running and their cell phones charging as they placed calls to insurance companies and cleanup people alike. Since so many were using cell phones, there was a gridlock that made it hard to get service. After realizing this, I started to get up at 3 a.m. each day to make calls from my daughter’s car in order to get through—my cell phone had become my lifeline both for calls and e‑mails.
The temperatures had dropped and our boilers and hot-water tanks were buried under loads of salt water. We confronted things we never in our entire lives thought we would have to deal with—figuring out how much was needed to cauterize the damage we had, and also trying to figure out what to prioritize.
We managed to get a pumping company to pump out the water from the homes on our block as a group effort, since one of the neighbors recommended this guy—we later found out that he found him on Google—no wonder it cost us a fortune!
I had already given up sleeping in the cold by the third day of the storm and moved in to my daughter Danit’s house together with my mom, who was also flooded out of her house. Danit and Aaron had a generator and so they also had heat, hot water for showers, and a few lights here and there—I felt I was really living the life of luxury at that point.
After sleeping in a warm house, I would wake up early in the morning, leaving my daughter’s warm house and my delicious grandchildren—Yaakov, Nachum, and Yehuda—to spend the day at my freezing house trying to get things taken care of. There was plenty to take care of: bagging up all the newly created garbage courtesy of Storm Sandy, meeting with the insurance people, helping people push their now dead cars out of the way, not to mention sorting through “salvageables” and “too far gones,” while always waiting for the elusive LIPA to turn on the power, since I could not even have a new boiler put in till I had power.
Outside, my neighbor is handing out envelopes to us all inviting us to her son’s aufruf that is scheduled in two weeks, and I had already forgotten with this storm that I promised her several bedrooms to house some of her guests. My husband was trying to convince her to change the aufruf to a Shabbat Chatan, which Sephardim do instead of an aufruf the Shabbos after the wedding (Shabbat sheva berachot). He figured this would buy her some time to get her basement pumped out and hopefully by the time the wedding came around LIPA would finally get the lights back on.
Just as I thought it would never happen, a week after the storm I finally got the lights back on. I felt like I had won the lottery! Ironically, I still was waiting to get a rental car, since I was 724th on the waiting list of the car-rental companies. I finally couldn’t take it anymore and decided to try a car-rental place on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, figuring who is going to need rentals over there, and lo and behold they had a car for me—only they gave me 45 minutes to come and get it or they would release it to someone else. My husband and I jumped into Danit’s car and sped to the city to get that rental. Would you believe they gave it to me with only a quarter of a tank because they did not want to wait on the gas lines?
The coda to this story is that my daughter Ettie just called me and told me she negotiated a minivan for the same price as my crummy compact that I ran to the city for—and that she got it on 48th Street. So will someone please tell me why the car-rental companies are not bringing those cars out here where we need them so much? v
Anessa Cohen lives in Cedarhurst and is a licensed real-estate broker and a licensed N.Y.S. mortgage broker with over 20 years of experience, offering full-service residential and commercial real-estate services (Anessa V Cohen Realty) and mortgaging services (First Meridian Mortgage) in the Five Towns and throughout the tri-state area. She can be reached at 516-569-5007 or via her website, www.AVCrealty.com. Readers are encouraged to send questions or comments to anessa.cohen@AVCrealty.com.