Rebuilt homes await displaced residents.
Story by Jeff Lipton.
Veronica McKnight and Joe Campise, two Long Beach residents whose homes were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, are extremely excited to be returning to their rebuilt residences.
“It feels amazing,” said McKnight, whose East Hudson Street home sustained substantial damage during the storm.
She and her husband John returned to their remodeled home on Saturday, after living with relatives in Riverhead and then New Hyde Park.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Campise, who has been living with relatives on the North Shore of Nassau County after Sandy left his Wisconsin Street home in a shambles.
Campise said about 20 percent of his home has been renovated and he is setting his sights on moving back in March or early April.
The McKnights lived through the nightmare of Sandy, refusing to heed warnings to evacuate and watching as the storm surge pounded their one-story ranch in North Park. A year before that, they evacuated during Hurricane Irene, which was a false alarm for them.
“We have pets and decided not to evacuate this time,” said Veronica McKnight. “We should have definitely evacuated. I would not want to go through that again. We were completely at the mercy of mother nature.”
She said her street was flooded with about six feet of water and about a foot surged into her home. A crawl space alleviated much of the problem by taking in the brunt of the water.
“It was really scary going through the whole thing because we did not know if we would get a foot of water or nine feet of water in the house,” said McKnight, who has lived in her home for 11 years. “The water came in so quickly and it came in from every crevice.”
She credited her husband with getting them back into their home so quickly by aggressively pursuing an insurance claim and filing with FEMA within 48 hours after the storm.
“My husband was working tirelessly with the insurance company to get us back into the house as soon as possible,” she said, adding that they also lost two cars and a motorcycle during Sandy.
“After the storm, my husband told everybody that we would move back by February. I didn’t believe it because it seemed like a major undertaking," McKnight said.
“I suffered a lot of trauma after the storm,” she continued. “I was in shock for a while. My husband is great in a crisis and he hit the ground running.”
Campise, who has lived in his home for 12 years, said he was on a business trip in Vancouver when the storm pummeled Long Beach. He returned later that week to find his home destroyed.
“We got about a foot of water, but it did a lot of damage,” he said. “We lost everything, everything. It was incredibly shocking.”
He said he loves Long Beach and has missed being a part of it.
“I want to be part of the community again, a part of the rebuilding process,” said Campise. “Now when I go there, I feel like I’m an outsider. The businesses need people to come back. I feel like I’m not helping them by being away.”
He said he is an extremely organized person and was stunned to see everything in disarray.
“To see everything you own not where it should be was quite a shock,” he said. “The most depressing part was the dismantling of the house. What took a dozen years to build up, took two months to dismantle.”
McKnight said people may take for granted what a storm like that could do to disrupt their lives.
“My husband didn’t have shoes to go to work with,” she said.
She said she still has some anxiety returning to Long Beach.
“It’s not the same community I know,” she said. “It’s not quite the same bustling place it normally is. Even though my house now looks great, there’s a real sense of sadness that it’s not the same. But we’ll try to make all new memories there.”
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