After Hurricane Irene flooded this home in August 2011, Hurricane Sandy added another four feet of water in October 2012.
By Susan Kim*
March 26, 2013—By the time Tim and Kim Gill recovered from Hurricane Irene, they had only eight months of disaster-free living before Hurricane Sandy barged through their door.
In August 2011, Irene swirled a foot of floodwater through their house in Massapequa, New York. “Anything sitting on the floor got wet,” recalls Tim, “and so did the stuff hanging in the closet.”
The carpets were also ruined, and the couple had to replace soggy drywall. They nearly rebuilt their home from the inside out. Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency helped, said Tim, but recovery from Irene still took six months.
“I think, in February of 2012, when the new carpet came in, we finally declared victory over Irene,” he said.
Eight months later, Hurricane Sandy was an unwelcome guest, bringing four times the amount water Irene did. This time, the Gills thought they were prepared.
“We had put a lot of tile down in some of the rooms, so we just had to replace the walls and hose the floor off,” said Tim, “but we had to have the heating system replaced, as well as all the wiring on the first floor.”
The Gills are known throughout Massapequa as resilient, cheerful people who are always willing to reach out and help others, even in the midst of their own recovery. Members of Community United Methodist Church, they said their church family has helped not only them but dozens of others. With support from UMCOR, the church serves as a United Methodist Disaster Relief Center.
The Gills got their house cleaned and gutted more quickly because they worked alongside a volunteer team that was organized by the relief center.
“It was amazing,” said Kim. “We worked with a crew and, in one day, we had the whole house gutted. It was so uplifting to us. Everything was wet and smelly and dirty, and it was so great to have all that stuff taken out of here and taken to the dumpster.”
Kim said, as they rebuild this time, they plan to turn the first level of their home into a garage, and convert the upper floors to living space.
In addition to Hurricane Irene, the couple's home was also flooded in 1991 and again in 1992—but none of those instances compared to the deluge that Sandy brought. Still, when you experience four floods in a 19-year span, you learn a few things, said Kim.
“You keep whatever possessions you can but, in the end, they're just things,” she said. “You can't look at it like it's your whole world falling apart. You realize what's important.”
The Gills continue to walk forward, and they try not to dwell on the fact that they've been on this post-disaster path several times already.
“Honestly there's no point in just wallowing in self-pity,” said Kim. “After having been through it several times, you know you just have to keep moving.”
The hardest part of this latest recovery, she said, is looking back on how hard she and her husband worked to prepare for Hurricane Sandy. “We tried really hard to prevent the damage,” she said. “We had moved items way up off the ground. I had taken all my clothes and put them in bags, and set them up high.”
But Sandy's four-foot storm surge was churning so furiously that it upended appliances, shelves, furniture—and floated them away, dumping the carefully set possessions into the dirty floodwater.
“It was all for naught,” Kim said.
UMCOR will continue to help Hurricane Sandy survivors, whatever their stage of recovery. Please donate to Hurricanes 2012, UMCOR Advance #3021787.
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.umcor.org.