Sunday, November 04, 2012

Hurricane Sandy ~Rescue 34~

The news was everywhere...Hurricane Sandy was coming and it was going to be bad. We started out on Sunday preparing for the storm to come. The skies were already dark with clouds swirling overhead. The wind was beginning to pick up just a bit. We took a quick drive around the area to check conditions. The Manasquan Inlet was washing over the sea wall at hightide…flooding the area where the fishermen set up their posts. The waves were high and pounding the jetty.
As we stood there watching the waves pound the jetty, we noticed an incoming vessel. We couldn’t help but think to ourselves, I’m glad its not me on that boat. The captain of the boat made all the right choices entering the inlet and we were happy to see him motor his way past us. As it turns out, this was the boat that had just picked up a surfer that was being pulled out to sea by the storms surge. Nice job Captain.
Stopping at the RR Bridge we could see the water had reached the bottom of the bridge. Windows were boarded along each street and boats were being pulled from the area as quickly as possible. It was time to get back to the squad and do more work.
We made a new cradle for our boat that was still in our parking lot. Just to be sure she could withstand the winds, we also tied her down. We spent the remainder of the day stocking supplies and prepping as best we could for the upcoming storm.
As Monday morning came, we could see the effects of the storm strengthening. We made a quick run down to the beach and to check out the damage that was already being caused by the winds and waves. We spent some time watching Al Roker give his reports, as we watched the waves behind him slowly eroding the dune he was standing on. Power lines were already down in the area and wind was racing. The ocean was at the boardwalk in many areas. Already washing over and breaking thru the sand dunes protection.
Our day Monday was spent like so many other Rescue and First Aid teams, transferring people to shelters and doing our best to provide help where needed. As the day wore on, the weather worsened. The local gas station had its roof ripped off of the pump area, trees were falling left and right, power line after power line fell and the wind gusts were up to 60 mph.
Around 11:30 Monday evening we got a call of people trapped in a flooding house. The trucks could no longer make their way thru the debris and high water. It was time to take out Rescue 34, our inflatable RIB. Chet, Bob, Gibby, Sabrina and Joe geared up and headed out.
It was the height of the storm. Winds at 70mph, rain blasting your face, and debris everywhere. We decided to place the boat in the water along Arnold Avenue. The streets were flooded from less then a block past the RR Tracks all the way to the beach. We made our way past sunken canoes, trees, downed lines, boats and flooded cars. We found the house and drove the boat right up to porch. We got the man and wife and their 2 cats and a dog into Rescue 34 and headed back to the waiting ambulance. Sometimes you can find humor even in the middle of a tragedy. As we slowly made our way back, wind whipping at our faces we all began to sing “Row Row Row your boat..” Twisted maybe, but it made everyone laugh and eased the tensions of the family with us.
We transferred our family to the ambulance and decided to head back out to check on a few houses where we could see flashlights moving in the darkness. As we were walking Rescue 34 out into deeper water a nearby transformer blew. It lit the sky with this eerie bright blue glow. It was so bright we could see almost to Ocean Avenue along the beach. It was like a full moon rose for just a minute. Bright blue, then almost green, then dark blue...fading to darkness. It made you realize just how dark it was with no power or lights anywhere.
A few houses we found with people refused to leave. Assuring us they were fine and wishing that we stayed safe. As we moved back towards the ambulance area, we saw a truck coming towards us. One of the houses had a bad gas leak and we needed to get one of the workers to it asap. As we neared the house, we found it also had a family still occupying it.  Mother, father, three children and 3 dogs! We cleared the house and brought the family to the ambulance.
We were ready to go back and check more houses when we were called back to the squad building due to worsening conditions. Back at the squad building, we cleaned our gear and made ready for the next call if needed. We made it through the night like the rest of the Point Pleasant Beach area, by riding out the storm. Answering a few calls and hoping for the best.
The next morning we had a request for another rescue. It was daylight and things had quieted down quite a bit. However the area was still massively flooded. Once again Rescue 34 was the way to go. We had a person trapped on the second story of a house. Inside the house was a jumble of furniture and debris. We cleared the way and got our victim to the waiting boat.
As we slowly made our way back to the ambulance, the view around us was unimaginable. Cars washed up on lawns. Sunken boats.  Hot tubs, swimming pools, lawn chairs, anything you could imagine, floated along in the flood waters or were washed up into the most unlikely of places.
The storm was over.
But its devastation was all around us.
Now its time to cleanup. To rebuild.
To be thankful for those who were safe and to remember those we lost.
P.S.    A few years back the Dive Team was raising funds by way of coin donation Jars at local 7-elevens and other businesses to purchase a hard-bottom inflatiable boat for the team to respond to distress calls and serve the community. Donations were good but one day the team received a phone call from local resident and President of Nassau Broadcasting, Mr. Mercatanti, who said he wanted to help the Dive Team in it's efforts serving the community. Mr. Mercatanti stepped up to the plate on completed the cost of what is now known as ~Rescue 34~ and described above......

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