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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Long Island, my home, even after Hurricane Sandy

There comes a moment in a monster hurricane such as Sandy when you question why you live on Long Island, this 118-mile-long spit of glacial debris deposited in the Atlantic Ocean from the mainland 20,000 years ago.

The Island is a fragile arm of dirt and sand precariously straddling the Eastern Seaboard in what can only be described as hurricane alley. It can, as Sandy proved, be a very dangerous place to live.

The moment of indecision came for my wife and me on Oct. 30, the day after Sandy slammed into New Jersey, buffeting Long Island’s South Shore with 85-mph wind gusts while flooding communities south of Merrick Road with a 10-foot storm surge.

Katerina and I have lived on the South Shore for two decades. Our home, like thousands of others, was flooded by Sandy. In the early morning shortly after the storm subsided, we were sitting on our living-room couch, wondering what we should do next. The downstairs family room was still covered in seaweed and three inches of saltwater –– after the water level had reached 3½ feet during the storm, coming within inches of our main floor. One of our Subarus was still sitting in our driveway, but the other was in our neighbor’s yard, immobilized by the torrent of seawater that rushed through our south Merrick neighborhood. Both vehicles were totaled. We lost our electricity and heat, and all manner of storm debris was strewn across our yard.

Our kids were asleep in their rooms after having stayed up past 1 a.m. Katerina and I had slept no more than an hour, and we were exhausted and cold. We felt as though we had lived through a nightmare, which played out under a full moon that cast an eerie glow over the Island, as if commanding Sandy to destroy.

Why not move upstate to Saratoga, where my brother lives? we wondered. Why not Bulgaria, my wife’s home country? For that matter, why not Albuquerque, N.M., or Boise, Idaho? Anywhere but Long Island. The answer was simple: Long Island is our home.

For us, some of the most heart-wrenching images, besides the photos of the many homes that were razed by fire, were the shots of the Long Beach boardwalk, blown apart by the storm, its pine planks strewn about like matchsticks.

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