Hurricane Sandy Recovery: The scope of devastation

This post is from the SCA Veterans Fire Corps, who helped clear Hurricane Sandy-ravaged streets along the Jersey Shore. For a full scope of SCA’s response to Hurricane Sandy, read SCA President Dale Penny’s letter to constituents. Also read more about post-Sandy restoration with Hudson River Park Trust.

The scope of the devastation is hard to comprehend, even when you’re standing in the middle of it. Blocks and blocks of homes in splinters. Giant limbs and entire trees lying on the ground. Streets filled with sand and debris. Some have likened it to a war zone. They are not far off.

The people here are toughing it out but you can see signs of strain. Many of the homes that survived Sandy are still without power as temperatures fall. But when the saw crew shows up, residents are buoyed. “They honk their horns, cheer. They ask if they can buy us meals,” says Project leader Mike Madalena. “We tell them ‘thank you’ but explain as government workers we cannot accept.”

On Friday, the SCA corps members – who were trained in chain saw operation earlier this fall to thin Arizona forests and reduce the risk of wildfire – roamed the Jersey Shore, “clearing highways of downed trees with the county guys,” Mike says. “Look like this weekend we’ll clear trees from school grounds and local public areas.

“That’s Chris Zinski in the photo with the massive 880 chainsaw he used to cut up a big pine tree that had fallen into the road.” Chris, from Marquette, MI, did four years in the Marines. His career goal is to work for the Forest Service. He likely never thought he’d achieve it on the streets of New Jersey.