With the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy just weeks away, Sandy Keenan, a Long Beach barrier island homeowner, wrote a story about her community’s recovery efforts, or lack thereof, which The New York Times published last week.
In “Dark Water: A Year After Hurricane Sandy,” Keenan relays the stories of city homeowners with various challenges, including some who elevated their entire storm-damaged houses several feet above sea level, as determined by Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps, as well as those whose flood insurance payouts fell far short of the maximum they expected, and others who face skyrocketing insurance premiums and the prospect of bankruptcy.
Under the Congressional Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, residents who have houses at an elevation four feet or more below the local sea level threshold could pay annual flood insurance premiums as high as $9,500, Keenan reports in her Oct. 2 story. Of the city’s 9,500 homes, she writes, 865 of them were deemed “substantially damaged,” meaning the cost of repair would be more than half their appraisal value, and anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of Long Beach residents are still displaced.
Keenan also highlights a few homeowners on a block that Sandy hit particularly hard, Pennsylvania Avenue, and writes about residents who attend a Sandy support group at City Hall who are “extremely anxious” about future storms.
She saves her family’s post-Sandy woes for last. About a third of the living space in her house, where she has lived since 1984, was ruined:
“Repairing the house and replacing furniture, landscaping and cars took six months and turned into a six-figure affair, with insurance covering about 75 percent. For that I am grateful. Many of our friends and neighbors did not fare so well. Our federal flood insurance premium has more than quadrupled, and we know it will keep rising. But for now, we are still here.”