Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sandy Anniversary

‘‘I don’t know if we’ll ever see another storm like this’’

Well, we didn't this year -- and yet I'm told a September study by NOAA found that sea level rise triggered by global warming is making Sandy-type flooding more likely -- even as the path may be rarer due to foul fart mist


Nearly a year later, Sandy still being analyzed
One year after Sandy: reflection and rebuilding

Let's do that, shall we?

"Pain of hurricane’s wallop still felt in N.J.; Many frustrated a year after Sandy" by Wayne Parry |  Associated Press, October 15, 2013

UNION BEACH, N.J. — Bart Sutton fought with his insurance company for a year over what it would cost to rebuild his flood-damaged home, then gave up in frustration and tore it down. A week later, the money came through.

Simone and Ken Dannecker fixed their flooded home themselves, deciding they couldn’t wait for insurance and government aid as green mold threatened to overrun it. Now, with the work nearly done, they are all but bankrupt and can’t afford to elevate the house they fought so hard to stay in.

Gigi Liaguno-Dorr needs $2 million to rebuild the waterfront restaurant that was one of the town’s major employers; she has less than a quarter of that and says she has never felt so helpless.

For these three families in Union Beach, a blue-collar enclave clinging precariously to the Raritan Bay, full recovery from Hurricane Sandy is elusive nearly a year after the storm pummeled the state Oct. 29. That is also true for thousands of others along the Jersey shore; in Ocean County alone, the county planning board estimated 26,000 people were unable to return to their homes as of last month.

It's always the same narrative. Mouthpiece media pimps the photo-ops and tells us the clean-up is being done and progress being made when there is none.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for Governor Chris Christie, could not estimate how many storm-damaged homes remain unoccupied.

Many families are living elsewhere while their homes are being rebuilt, and ‘‘a large number’’ of bungalows and small homes that were destroyed or severely damaged were second homes for people living in their primary residences, he said. The state taxation division said more than 40,000 properties suffered a total of $4.3 billion in lost value from storm damage.

The "blue collar enclave" were all second homes? 

Then they ain't really "blue collar," are they?

Progress has been made in recovering from one of the worst storms to hit New Jersey and the second-costliest in the nation’s history at $65 billion, trailing only Hurricane Katrina’s $125 billion cost.

Sections of New Orleans were never cleaned up or rebuilt.

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent rebuilding boardwalks and oceanfront attractions crucial to the tourist trade, and thousands of homes have been repaired, either with the help of government aid or through a mix of insurance and savings.

Yup, things are looking great!


Well, were for a paragraph there.

RelatedNYC area still struggling after Sandy

But progress is being made.

"After Sandy, second homes in N.J. are left out; Plots of paradise now a nightmare for many" by Katie Zezima |  Associated Press, October 27, 2013

STAFFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. — The Jersey shore’s vacation bungalows and cottages have for decades staked out little plots of paradise where families who scrimped and saved could while away summer evenings, parents having drinks on the deck and youths working at an ice cream stand or stealing a first kiss under a boardwalk.

Now, nearly a year after Hurricane Sandy blasted through, countless middle-class families whose tiny vacation homes were once the place to make precious memories are finding them to be a financial albatross.

While billions of dollars in federal relief have helped primary-home owners rebuild after the storm, second-home owners find themselves stuck in limbo: not eligible for enough money to rebuild or even demolish their homes while they remain on the hook for mortgage payments and higher flood insurance for houses they can’t even use.

Well, at least $ome people are still making a buck.

‘‘We thought we were good for the community, and to suddenly be labeled this second-home owner like it was a derogatory statement, it was like a smack in the face,’’ said Benita Kiernan, a retired nurse who with her retired New York City firefighter husband sank every spare cent into a cottage on an inlet in Stafford Township.

They gotta be giving back some of those benefits then. Public worker unions are destroying this country so they can have a vacation home!

‘‘We became the scarlet-S: second-home owners.’’

Or $ as the ca$e may be:

Tom Brady, Gisele Bundchen buy N.Y. condo for $14m

In addition to a sprawling mansion in Los Angeles, a seaside compound in Costa Rica, and another enormous house in Brookline.  But he's Tom Brady and he's a God around here!

For decades, the Jersey shore has been a place where police officers, plumbers, teachers, and other working-class families can save up and put a down payment on a small beach bungalow to spend their summers ‘‘down the shore,’’ as it is called. In many cases the properties are passed down through families.

Even before Sandy tore the Kiernans’ home down to a wooden shell, it was not the palatial estate conjured by the phrase ‘‘vacation home.’’ But even then the modest 1,000-square-foot house had been a financial stretch — the family skipped dinners out and vacations to be able to afford it.

I can't remember the last time I could afford a vacation or dinner out. I know it has been years.

The sacrifice has been worth it, Kiernan said. The shore is where their grandchildren played and their four daughters packed in with their friends, and where the couple was considering moving full time because they viewed the community as a second hometown.

‘‘It was low-key fun,’’ Kiernan said.

But the little house offers mostly heartache now. The Kiernans received about $100,000 from their insurance company, but that’s less than half the amount of their policy and nowhere near enough to pay the mortgage and shoulder the cost of demolishing and rebuilding.

‘‘This was our investment,’’ John Kiernan said as his wife wiped away tears.

You invested badly.

Even tearing down the house and selling the lot is no easy way out — while homes have been selling on the Jersey shore, values are not what they were before the storm.

Hey, take the lo$$ and move somewhere else. Or go back to your first home. 

Look on the bright side: at least you were not fraudulently foreclosed upon.

‘‘Do I build it, do I leave it? I can’t even sell the property because properties have been downgraded that much,’’ he said.

Second-home owners are not eligible for a suite of relief options available to primary-home owners, such as $1.8 billion in rebuilding funds that the US Department of Housing and Urban Development gave to New Jersey or low-interest loans from the Small Business Administration. Second-home owners will also see their flood insurance rates go up because they are not grandfathered in like primary-home owners. 

Even if they have no home?

In Lavallette, the skeleton of Cora Hoch’s sea glass-colored vacation bungalow remains, its foundation tipped, wiring exposed, doors missing, and ‘‘do not enter’’ spray-painted on the side.

‘‘We put our life savings into that little house,’’ said Hoch, a school nurse from Kearny, N.J. ‘‘We can’t afford to fix it, and FEMA will not give us anything.’’

Only banks and auto conglomerates get bailed out, sorry.

FEMA said the assistance money is meant to be a one-time stopgap measure to help people get back into their primary homes as soon as possible. Congress, FEMA said, set the rules.

‘‘It was designed for those who don’t have a roof over their head or a place to live,’’ said Tom McDermott, a FEMA mitigation specialist. ‘‘I guess they said if they can afford a second home or a camp, and don’t take this the wrong way, it isn’t necessary that they get back up so they can enjoy a weekend or a week away.’’


Many are waiting to see if they can qualify for any other assistance, but aside from private charities, there is little help.

Related: Slow Saturday Special: Charitable Po$t

Some are dipping into their retirement funds.

Mine are all gone.

Michelle and John Novella are rebuilding their Stafford Township home on their own, putting everything on credit cards.

Bad move!

‘‘First-home owners should be the priority,’’ Michelle Novella said, but she feels second- home owners who patronize the seasonal businesses and make up the lifeblood of the Jersey shore should get something.

‘‘Otherwise,’’ she said, ‘‘it’s going to make the Jersey shore very different.’’


All of a sudden the elite new$media cares about the middle class.

At least they had insurance, right?

"For some Sandy victims, insurance falls short" by David B. Caruso |  Associated Press, October 21, 2013

NEW YORK — Many homeowners who got slammed by Superstorm Sandy are finding their flood insurance checks are nowhere near large enough to cover their repairs, and consumer advocates put some of the blame on errors by the multitude of adjusters who were hired in a hurry after the disaster.

They say policyholders are being shortchanged — sometimes by tens of thousands of dollars — because of adjusters’ inexperience and their overreliance on computer programs, rather than construction know-how, to estimate costs.

Those critics point to policyholders like John Lambert and Lee Ann Newland, whose house in Neptune, N.J., is still a moldy wreck a year after Sandy filled it with 4½ feet of water, and another homeowner, Joanne Harrington of Tuckerton Beach, N.J.....


A similar pattern has been repeated up and down the East Coast as insurance companies working with the federal government have processed nearly 144,000 claims filed with the National Flood Insurance Program after the storm.

WTF are you paying premiums for, other than to line the pockets and bottom lines of in$urance companies?

Insurers dispute that large numbers of customers are being paid less than what they are owed. They say the vast majority of adjusters do a methodical, professional job, and any oversights are easily corrected if homeowners can produce proof that a covered expense has been overlooked....

Computer technology, he added, has made it easier than ever for newcomers to write up a claim properly. ‘‘The software that they use, it’s very easy. I could take you in a day and teach you to write an estimate,’’ Moore said.

Some consumer advocates and homeowners don’t see it that way at all. Immediately after the storm, insurance companies brought in an army of adjusters from all corners of the country. They arrived with varying degrees of expertise. All would have had to have passed a certification test in at least one state. Many were veterans of past floods and hurricanes, but not all.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the flood insurance program, requires adjusters to have four years’ experience. But newcomers can start work after a brief training period under certain circumstances, if they are working for one of the major insurance carriers that handle the bulk of flood claims.

Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders, an advocacy group for insurance consumers, said that for adjusters with no background in construction, there is a tendency to rely too much on software like Simsol, Xactimate, and Symbility to tell them how much repairs will cost.

Oh, no! I hope to hell it is better than Obamacare or the Mass. UI programs!

‘‘Some of these guys could have been selling oranges last week at a fruit stand, and this week they are an insurance adjuster,’’ Bach said. ‘‘Instead of using [the software] as a tool to check the estimates produced by the contractors, they use them as a last word. But computers don’t rebuild and repair homes. Contractors do.’’

Or not.

Claims software is widely used in the industry after major disasters and represents a break with the old practice of getting estimates directly from contractors. It is designed to take out the guesswork while offering a check against contractors who exaggerate the cost of a job.

Now they worry about corruption and cost overruns! When there is no roof over your head?

The programs supply detailed prices, by ZIP code, for carpets, cabinets, light fixtures, and almost every other part of a house, as well as the labor costs for tasks as simple as putting masking tape around electrical outlets before painting.

Using those programs properly involves entering an inventory of every piece of damage in the house, and every possible task that might be required to put the building back into its proper state. There are thousands of variables. Miss a few, and that means less money for storm victims. Simsol’s president, John Postava, said that like any computer program, it is only as good as the data people feed into the system: ‘‘Garbage in, garbage out.’’


Simsol also operates an adjusting firm and had 158 adjusters working in the Northeast on Sandy claims. Postava said he is confident the great majority did a good job.

Two of the largest adjustment firms in the Sandy effort, Colonial Claims Corp. and Pilot Catastrophe Services, declined to make executives available for an interview.

Earlier this month, FEMA gave homeowners an extension until next spring to submit proof of their storm losses after lawmakers complained that thousands of constituents were still arguing with their insurance companies.

That's odd because all the commercials I see on TV seem to imply that they are your friend and here to help.


Looks like a tax hike is in order:

"Communities recovering from Sandy find tax hike fears unfounded" Associated Press, July 15, 2013

MANTOLOKING, N.J. — With all the fears that Hurricane Sandy created, here’s one that never materialized: huge tax increases to make up for property destroyed along the coastlines of New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Waves of federal aid, some strategic borrowing, lowered property values, and surplus accounts helped many shore communities avoid having to raise taxes drastically to compensate for lost tax revenue.

But it's still a hike?

There had been concerns about what could happen next year, when the tide of emergency storm aid will have receded and full rebuilding will still elude some neighborhoods.

(Blog editor simply sighs)

The thinking was that because shore towns had lost so much taxable property in the Oct. 29 storm, governments would have no choice but raising taxes on surviving structures to make up the difference. But that was before Congress approved $60 billion in Sandy relief, most of it for New Jersey and New York....

Mantoloking, a Jersey Shore town and affluent borough adopted a 14.6 percent increase in the municipal tax rate. But because the storm lowered property values and because of an influx of storm recovery aid and borrowing, most municipal tax bills will actually be lower this year....

Yeah, right. Taxes are going up but they will be lower. They must think we have sand in our head if they expect us to believe that non$en$e!

The figures do not include school or county taxes and are the only ones over which municipalities have direct control.

Some taxes not included?

Homeowners in many towns may still see an overall increase in taxes because of school spending or other causes, but the doomsday scenario many municipal officials had feared is not happening. 

Which flies in the face of the deceptive f***ing headline!!!!!!!!!!!

In community after community, municipal taxes are either staying the same this year or going up only very slightly.

Gee, I was led to believe they were not going up at all!!

Many towns had to front out-of-pocket in the fall and winter for cleanup will eventually be paid back by the US government by as much as 90 percent.

I wouldn't hold my breath while waiting under water.


That's weird. Last I heard the boardwalk had been rebuilt and everything was ready to roll for tourist season:

"Two N.J. shore towns reel after latest blow; Fire wipes out progress made since hurricane" by Kate Zernike |  New York Times, September 14, 2013

NEW YORK — Nick Dionisio is a third-generation boardwalk guy, having peeled shrimp as a 7-year-old in his grandfather’s clam bar. Later he decided to go into banking, but when the markets collapsed, he came back to what he knew. He even pulled his father out of retirement to help him start a fried-fish place, and then another that was a little more upscale.

Related: Boston Globe is a Banker's Mouthpiece 

It really i$, hey!

Dionisio was still trying to make up the cost of starting the businesses when Hurricane Sandy hit 10 months ago, flooding them with 9 feet of water and ruining expensive equipment. His father died unexpectedly just weeks later. The electricity and gas were restored only five days before Memorial Day, the weekend when boardwalk places typically make up much of their rent. But summer business was terrible, with so many renters and tourists staying away. Still, Dionisio kept going because he loved it.

The fire in the Jersey Shore towns of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights on Thursday did to Park Seafood, in Seaside Park, what the hurricane had not: It destroyed it. Flames ravaged about five blocks of boardwalk in the two towns, which had been among the towns hardest hit by the storm. As Dionisio and other business owners surveyed the rubble Friday, they struggled to summon what it would take to start over so soon after starting over.

“It’s like someone who’s in a war,” Dionisio, 34, said in a phone interview. “After a time, they’re so used to seeing destruction, they become numb to it.”

But you are at least still alive.

“Everything has been a bad dream already,” he added. “To have this happen, it hasn’t even hit me yet. This sums up how awful this year has been. It doesn’t get any worse than what it is right now.”

Government is on its way to help!

Investigators had roped off the scene with yellow police tape and declared it a crime scene, though the governor and local officials would not go so far as to speculate that the blaze was arson. They said only that the cause was unknown, and that the fire, which apparently began in an ice cream shop, had been fueled by tar roofs and unusually strong winds.

Officials estimated the fire had damaged between 30 and 50 businesses. “Places where decades of memories were built for families are destroyed,” Governor Chris Christie said in a morning news conference — beloved institutions like Jack-N-Bills Bar, Maruca’s Tomato Pies, Berkeley Sweet Shop, and countless balloon and souvenir stands.

Christie vowed to “get aggressive and rebuild,” as he did when he visited the area last October and declared the Jersey Shore of his childhood gone. “I will not permit all the work we’ve done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night,” he said.

But those left said they were not sure how they could.


Officials in the two towns said they were lucky that no one had died — on weekends, the boardwalk adjoining their beaches can be filled with tens of thousands of people; the fire happened just weeks after families had departed for the start of school.

And the continuing work to rebuild after Hurricane Sandy provided a small saving grace: Construction equipment that had been in use nearby was moved up the beach to cut the 25-foot-wide trench that finally halted flames that had burned for nearly six hours....

I'm sorry, but I don't see any saving graces in tragedies. I just don't, and I'm insulted when some suggest such things.


A lot of the businesses did not have fire insurance? 

Btw, the fire was caused by wiring that dated to the 1970s, but we all know what the real problem is down there. 

Time to hit the beach: 

"Suspected mine detonated in surf off N.J. beach" AP, June 27, 2013

BAY HEAD, N.J. — A plume of water shot about 125 feet in the air and a boom echoed through town Wednesday as a military explosives team detonated a suspected mine that a diver had discovered partially buried in the Atlantic Ocean....

During World War II, German U-boats patrolled the ocean just beyond the horizon and targeted merchant ships as they sailed along the coast. Hurricane Sandy last year may have exposed the device.

The explosives team has responded a half-dozen times to similar incidents since the storm hit the Jersey shore on Oct. 29....

While startling to some, the discovery of old munitions on Jersey shore beaches or just offshore is not all that unusual. The military has said it dumped large quantities of munitions overboard at the end of both World Wars as the conflicts were ending.

Related: Boston Globe Fishing Net 

Now imagine what we have littered in the nations we waged war on, American. How would you like to haul up depleted uranium munitions or cluster bombs in your neighborhood net?


"N.J. takes steps to move coastal protection forward" by Wayne Parry |  Associated Press, September 26, 2013

MANTOLOKING, N.J. — With the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy approaching, New Jersey took two big steps Wednesday toward protecting its still-vulnerable coastline from future storms.

The state announced the settlement — for $1 — of a lengthy legal dispute between a shore town and an elderly couple who complained that a protective sand dune blocked their ocean views.

Related: Lost in the Sands of Time

Moments later, Governor Chris Christie directed the state to take legal action against about 1,000 holdouts whose refusal to sign easements giving the government permission to carry out beach protection projects is blocking the crucially needed work.

The 1-2 punch highlighted just how important New Jersey considers protective sand dunes to be along the coast — and how vulnerable many areas remain nearly a year after the devastating Oct. 29 storm. About 360,000 New Jersey homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed in the storm....

Then why is it taking them until next year to rebuild them?



Sandy task force says spend now for future storms
East Coast states will get funds for hurricane projects
New city zoning plans tied to changes in climate
Bill would delay higher rates for flood insurance
Dry weather blamed as brush fires plague parts of Mass.

At least Ellis Island was reopened.