Can’t make this stuff up. People in the New York and New Jersey area devastated by Hurricane Sandy are without homes, or have homes but no electricity while sleet and snow is pounding the area. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) disaster “recovery” centers are closed in some areas of New York City and New Jersey. New Jersey FEMA says they will reopen tomorrow (Thursday). Staten Island says buses serving as warming centers have disappeared.
Another storm — a dreaded nor’easter — is on its way, and FEMA’s response was to shutter the relief centers that have been some Hurricane Sandy victims’ sole source of food, water and other supplies. The Red Cross has also cut back on relief services as New York City braces for the next wintry wallop.
Salon reported that Fugate told reporters on a Wednesday conference call that some post-Sandy FEMA facilities and services “had to be secured or postponed during the [current] storm. … We are going to resume when weather permits.”
DNAinfo.com New York visited several FEMA disaster centers and found “Closed due to weather” signs.
A FEMA facility on Coney Island was among those affected.
“The storm is coming. We don’t know how hard it’s going to hit us,” Jenny Cartagena told DNAInfo outside that FEMA site. “I need some help now.”
Non-FEMA volunteers handing out supplies on Staten Island said FEMA buses disappeared Wednesday, and were no longer available as places for New Yorkers with no electricity to get warm. Source: Daily Caller
Private citizens and businesses are doing the majority of rescue and recovery for the people. It is We The People who have been out and about trying to get basic necessities to those affected.
So many already without power, had no way to know the FEMA centers were closing:
Because the FEMA centers were located with food distribution and warming services, some residents who arrived there were confused by the closed centers.
In Staten Island, a printed paper sign taped to the front door of on the center at 6581 Hylan Blvd. at 10:30 a.m. read “FEMA Center Closed Due to Weather.”
The front doors of the disaster recovery center, which is housed inside the Mount Lorretto Catholic Youth Organization, were unlocked, but there was no staff anywhere in sight for at least a half an hour.
And a set of buses which served as a pair of warming centers at the site for the past several days were missing, according to non-FEMA volunteers who continued to hand out supplies from a nearby building despite the storm. Source: DNAinfo.com
In the entire week that I was without power, I was surprised that not a single official or volunteer from my town or county came to knock on doors and check on people. I have friends and family in nearby towns, and they’ve also heard from no one. There are frequent reports on the radio that shelters are providing food and supplies, but many cannot get to such locations. Neighbors might check on each other, but they’re all in the same boat when it comes to basic necessities. When a disaster this catastrophic hits an entire state, the help needs to be brought to the people.
If you are lucky enough to have a cell phone and a car with some gas in it to charge it (as I was), you can occasionally get text messages out to people or get onto social media sites like Twitter to communicate. Even that has been spotty.
One thing I’ve learned from this experience is that government is not prepared for things like this. People have been left in the cold and the dark, hearing nothing from the local government. While I appreciate the leadership Governor Christie has displayed during this crisis, he was right about one thing: it’s people helping people that will save NJ, not government.
I was overwhelmed this week by the outpouring of support from folks online. Some of them were people I know in real life, some I’ve only known online. Throughout the week, on the occasion that I was actually able to access Twitter, people who knew of my situation checked in regularly. They sent me information on shelters, where to get gas, where to find supplies, and where to get more food. Some of them monitored hashtags and keywords for my town and sent me any relevant tweets with updates on power restoration, where grocery stores were open, and where to try and find ice nearby.
Many offered to overnight or personally deliver to me blankets, coats, batteries, virtually anything I needed. Some offered their homes to me, once the roadways opened up. When I was able to get out a message that other people around the state were running out of gas and supplies and couldn’t get help, some posted the message at their blogs. And when I finally resigned myself to relocating to a shelter just before my power was restored, I texted others to look up the information and find a church shelter close to me. (click the link above to read it all)
Difficult times and we have to remember that some disaster relief workers are also victims. I can’t imagine the misery. Photo credit DNAInfo.com.