A Voice from Superstorm Sandy-Struck New Jersey

The paragraphs below were written by a New Jersey resident,  @mblakeperdue, who expresses without rancor his frustration with not only the slow response to the storm’s aftermath, but also his disappointment and dismay by the dearth of proactive measures taken by all levels of government as the long-predicted storm approached the East Coast. Clearly, lessons can be learned by cities, counties, states and the federal government for future planning — lessons one would have thought had been learned during the Katrina mess.

When heading to the polls tomorrow, please keep in mind that speeches and handshakes made by politicians have not aided in the response or recovery of the Sandy disaster. We need executives who are serious about leading efficiently and with new ideas.We need legislators who are serious about directing and allocating our tax money to useful and needed projects.

This disaster could have easily been mitigated had the funds we pay for been properly used. The storm was not a surprise. There was sufficient notice. Something as simple as pre-positioning assets like gas and drinking water to the west of NJ could have saved many headaches. Only yesterday did the national guard start using their trucks to deliver gas. Why? Were they doing something else with these trucks last Sunday?

I believe the chief executive’s (federal, state, or local) main job is be an actual executive, and here executives have failed at every level. Innovation and efficiency is needed to prevent this again, and handshakes and speeches are neither innovative nor efficient.


  1. Hurricane Sandy was spotted a long way off, that’s true, but it’s potential track was anything but set in stone. This particular storm followed rather closely the first right then left path projected by the weather services, but hurricanes are fickle, they follow their own stars more times than not and can meander in quite surprising ways.

    Prepositioning supplies is not only an exceedingly tricky business but good faith mistakes can be costly as well as time consuming. Better to wait and see where help is needed first than to spend time and money trying to out-guess mother nature.

    My experience with hurricanes is extensive, I was born during the Great Atlantic Hurricane of early December 1944. My pregnant 22 year old mother was instructed to get the hell of the island (Ocracoke, NC) before it’s too late. She did, and my father stayed to protect our home by chopping holes in the floor to let the rising water in and keep the house from floating off its raised foundations and into Pamlico Sound.

    Hurricane Hazel in 1954 is well remembered by all who suffered in her wake. I recall watching the destruction from the safety of our home in Tidewater, Virginia. I was only a boy but I learned from my father’s experience with earlier storms. We scrubbed out the bath tub and filled it with water, we used tape to seal the cracks around windows and doors, we stocked up on canned food and batteries for our radio. We took in everything that might blow away, we filled the tanks on our cars with gasoline and kept a few extra gallons on hand. We prepared.

    In those days everyone expected to be without electricity for 3 to 5 days. We knew we were on our own, and we never thought help would come from city, state, or federal agencies. It never entered our minds. That was just the way it was, and that’s the way it still is.

    When hurricane Floyd, a category 4 storm (Sandy was a category 1) was making it’s way up the East Coast in September of ’99 something on the order of 4.5 million people were ordered to evacuate. Both my parents had recently passed and I ignored the order and stayed to protect the family home. I knew what to do, and I had 3 days to get ready.

    I had plenty of bottled water but I still filled 2 bath tubs, I moved the propane grill into the house along with an extra tank for cooking and heating if necessary. I checked the roof for loose shingles and strengthened the chimney supports. I got the neighbor’s lawn furniture inside and I made sure their preparations were as good as mine.

    Now, I’m not pointing fingers, and I’m not tooting my own horn, although it may seem so, but I am telling anyone and everyone who has ears that you can’t depend on government in an emergency. Depend on yourselves, be prepared, and you’re likely to come out alright.

    BTW, if a hurricane is coming eat the food in your freezer, throw a hurricane Feast and invite the neighbors, because if the power goes out all the food in your refrigerator is going to spoil anyway.

  2. ALL great points, ropelight. Many of the hurricane precautions you listed are the same that we in tornado alley know to take. The problems for the folks in NY and NJ, though,include homes that have either been destroyed by wind or rendered uninhabitable by nasty floods. Even some of those who were proactive were faced with such devastation that they found themselves in need in spite of their precautions. Also, the very cold temps make the lack of heat and power life-threatening–beyond merely uncomfortable. Generators w/o fuel to operate them are useless.

    People who have never had to turn to gov’t are finding themselves needing help for the first time in their lives and that help seems to be slow in coming. FEMA is a huge bureaucrasy that is too often entangled in red tape. Romney was jeered for suggesting removing the bulk of FEMA funding to state and local governments, but is evident that states’ dependence on the federal government simply drags out the process of helping people.

  3. We didn’t get it very bad at all in northeastern Pennsylvania, but two of my friends just got their sparktricity back last night. For me, the lights flickered a couple of times, but that was it. My neighbor lost a big, old pine tree, which fell across the fence into my yard. He was all apologetic, but I said that it was better that it fell into my yard than into his house!

    From a second-floor window:

    Click to embiggen.

  4. Remember Julia? 150% dependent on Gov’t. Unfortunately, that is becoming a prevailing mentality in the country. In 100 years we have gone from being independent and self relient to wipe my butt. The two hemispheres of my brain get very conflicted at times like this. One side says get prepared, we got water, batteries, ice and had enough food. Didn’t know what would happen, but went on line and looked at the 25 or so predicted paths of Sandy and saw the prevailing were going to go right over us, literally. Looked at the rain forecast and the X was right on us at 7.17 inches and I put this can outside and it overflowed.

    Then there are those who can’t tie their own shoes without a diagram and a helper.

  5. Yes Gretchen, I’ve seen the pictures. The only protection I’m aware of from flood is to build on high ground and the way to minimize wind damage is to build with brick, stucco, or HardiPlank, keep a high pitched roof and overhangs to a minimum, use storm windows and doors, and avoid vulnerable double doors on garages, and other similar common sense precautions.

    None of which is going to help those in need now. When the South End of Staten Island is rebuilt we’ll see if the lessons of Sandy have been learned or not.

    If my words seem harsh and unsympathetic please understand they’ve been earned at high personal cost.

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