As he watched the mounting pile of wrecked furniture and ruined possessions outside his Rockaway home, Nick was already planning ahead. Hurricane Sandy’s massive storm surge swept a wall of floodwater into the consultant’s home and office, destroying everything he owned. “Material things can be replaced,” he explained. “We will rebuild and make it even better.”
For Nick, the first step in the rebuilding process is already underway. He was one of 20 homeowners helped by Operation Muck-Out, a joint project of AmeriCares and the World Cares Center that kicked off on Sunday, November 11 in Far Rockaway. The program is part of AmeriCares large-scale hurricane relief effort.
About 200 trained volunteers worked throughout the day cleaning the hardest-hit homes, removing mud, sheetrock, appliances, carpeting, furniture – anything and everything destroyed by floodwaters. In the final and most crucial step, each home was disinfected to protect against the growth of toxic mold – bringing families one step closer to safely returning home.
Jonathan Hughes, team leader for AmeriCares clean-up crew, described the magnitude of the damage. “In many cases, up to 9 feet of water engulfed basements, garages, and first floors,” he said. “In some homes, the bottom levels are reduced to bare beams.”
Hughes explained that the kind of cleanup required after such severe flooding is more than a homeowner can handle alone. “This is going to be a long process,” he said. “It will be a while before many families can safely return home, and many others are still without heat, hot water, and electricity. We will continue to support communities like these with deliveries of family emergency kits, bottled water, blankets, first aid, flashlights, and cleaning supplies.”
For now, Nick and his dog, Atticus, a 5-year-old Puggle, are staying with family in Fresh Meadows. “We’re going to get right to work rebuilding, but it will be about 2-3 months before I move back home,” he said.
In coming months, Operation Muck-Out will be expanded to help families in Staten Island, Long Island and New Jersey. In addition to volunteers and supplies, AmeriCares has awarded a grant to World Cares Center to hire a volunteer coordinator to oversee the long-term effort.
AmeriCares is also partnering with World Cares Center on Operation Winter Warmth, a program to help Staten Island survivors still struggling without heat since the hurricane. On November 13, volunteers went door-to-door to delivering 1,900 insulated sleeping bags donated by AmeriCares.
Learn more about AmeriCares Hurricane Sandy relief.