Entries in Sandy (3)


Hurricane and Nor'easter Underscore Tree Hazards

Matthew Fiasconaro/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Bob Johnson and his wife Pegi were watching television weather coverage in their Allentown, N.J., home waiting out superstorm Sandy, when they saw flame-like sparks on electrical lines across the street.

"It was about 7:30 and we were talking about how so far we had escaped things around here," said Johnson, a 65-year-old retiree.

Johnson walked into the living room to find his neighbor's phone number, then stood in the doorway to make a call.

"In a span of a second, the power and the phone went out," he said. "The lights went out and 'crash, tinkle, tinkle' -- stuff was falling through the glass skylight and I yelled, 'Peg, there's a tree in the living room.'"

A 70-foot pin oak, 29 inches in diameter, ripped up 20-feet of sidewalk and plunged through the Johnson's roof, knocking out shelves, smashing furniture and burying the floor in sheet rock.

The tree had missed him by five feet. "Except for the grace of God, I would have been killed," he said. "I was in shock."

Bob and Pegi Johnson were relieved that the tree that hit their house didn't kill them.

It's not a stretch to say that on the East Coast, people are suddenly afraid of their once majestic trees, which were responsible for numerous deaths throughout the region.

"I view all trees as weapons at the moment," said Pegi Johnson, 65. "I hope never to hear that loud crash again. It took a split second to realize what had happened and to see how closely I came to actually being a widow."

In Princeton, N.J., William Sword Jr., 61, was killed by a falling tree when he went out to clear debris from another felled tree.

And in New York, two boys, ages 11 and 13, were killed when a tree struck their Westchester home where they were hunkered down in the family room.

Jessie Streich-Kest and her friend Jacob Vogelman, both 24, died underneath the weight of a fallen tree in Brooklyn, N.Y., when they were out walking her dog.

And in Queens, 29-year-old Tony Laino was killed after a huge tree crashed through his two-story house, pinning him in his bedroom.

Trees that have adorned suburban neighborhoods for years have been unearthed in two back-to-back storms, first superstorm Sandy and then a nor'easter.

Pam Robinson, a 60-year-old editor from Huntington, Long Island, was out of power for eight days during Sandy and again when six inches of heavy snow fell last week -- all because of downed trees and power lines.

One tree was so heavy with snow it collapsed on her lawn.

"We had a guy killed in town last week when a tree fell in his driveway," she said. "He was a healthy guy, trying to leave with his family -- you can get killed walking your dog."

Tree specialists who are backed up with business say that homeowners are so terrified that they are asking to have other looming trees taken down.

"People are very paranoid about their trees," said Betty Stillwell of Arbor Vision tree service in New Egypt, N.J. "Basically they want anything that is going to fall and hit their house taken down."

Bob and Pegi Johnson are taking no chances, knowing that another storm could bring down other large trees with shallow roots growing between the street and the sidewalk.

Their neighbors have already discussed taking down a looming tree, fearing it will come down. After firefighters and police arrived to evacuate the Johnsons, friends took them in and have fed and housed them for two weeks.

Days later when clean-up crews arrived to remove the tree from the roof, the crane was too small. They estimated the oak weighed 10 tons.

Johnson and his wife expect to get insurance coverage, but won't seek help from FEMA, even though they would likely qualify.

"I almost feel guilty with others who have no home -- people who lost everything," he said.

"All in all, the lesson I have learned is that I am grateful to be alive," said his wife, Pegi. "What we gained is appreciation of friends who have gone over and above any expectation to help us out. That is a real eye opener and I know that I, at least, will pay it forward at any opportunity I can."

Her husband agrees his brush with death was "unsettling," and makes them think twice about nature. But, said Bob Johnson, a former science teacher, "It's not the tree's fault."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Nor'easter Stress Is Normal for Sandy Survivors

EVA HAMBACH/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- At the height of superstorm Sandy, Jane Frank clung to her husband and three boys as the water rose. It flooded their basement and rose as high as the first floor of their Belle Harbor home in the Rockaway section of Queens. Despite the pounding rains and gusting winds, they were forced to open the upstairs windows because the smell of gas from leaks and fires in the area made it difficult to breathe.

Now their house is uninhabitable. She's relocated her family a hundred miles away to her parent's summer home in upstate New York.

And Frank said she's feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about the future. The nor'easter that bore down on the area Wednesday made her particularly anxious.

"With another storm coming in I feel like we are up against a clock," she said. "We're terrified it will set things back and it'll take even longer to get back home."

Simon Rego, the director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York, said Frank's anxiety over the incoming weather is perfectly normal, considering what she's been through.

"People's brains are wired with a radar system that helps them look out for potential threats," he said. "It makes sense that after going through a traumatic event like a natural disaster we're primed to react to similar events."

Frank probably isn't the only one who's feeling nervous about the incoming storm system. Rego said anyone who weathered the worst of Sandy may already be suffering from acute stress disorder, a precursor to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Looking up at the storm clouds may make them feel anxious, fearful and depressed, he said, or they may feel a sense of emotional detachment to what's going on around them. They may have trouble sleeping and eating – or may they sleep too much and overeat. They may become obsessed with news reports about the storm or go to great lengths to avoid them altogether. Headaches, stomach upsets and other physical ailments are also typical symptoms of stress.

"For someone who has experienced Sandy, they may fear the worst is yet to come with this new storm," Rego said.

According to Rego, it's natural to feel worried about a storm coming in right on the heels of a superstorm. For people who've recently gone without power, heat, water -- or a place to live -- it brings up legitimate concerns.

But there are ways to help oneself. Rego said it's important to keep things in perspective by recognizing Sandy was a storm of historical proportions and a very rare event.

"Try to balance the extreme negative thoughts with more reality-based thoughts. There will be snow and wind this time around, but nothing that's predicted will be on the same scale as what Hurricane Sandy gave us," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Superstorm Sandy Tests Hospital Preparedness

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- When superstorm Sandy slammed into New York and New Jersey, it tested the emergency preparedness of hospitals housing some of the region's most vulnerable residents.

Despite all the hospitals' preparations, the storm's high winds and flooding forced a handful of hospitals in New York and New Jersey to evacuate all patients, including those that were in critical condition.

In New York City, NYU Langone Medical Center was forced to evacuate 300 patients after losing power in the historic storm. Among the evacuees were roughly 45 critical care patients and 20 babies, who were carefully carried down dark stairways as the 18-story hospital's elevators stood still.

A long line of ambulances lit up the dark streets surrounding the midtown Manhattan medical center, which spans four blocks along the East River, waiting to transport patients to other facilities amid gusts of wind that topped 70 miles per hour.

News of the "total evacuation" came roughly 12 hours after hospital officials said Monday morning that their emergency preparedness plan had been activated and that there were "no plans to evacuate" at the time.

But Sandy spawned record-breaking tides around lower Manhattan when it made landfall as a post-tropical storm just south of Atlantic City. The flooding prompted power outages from East 39th Street to the lower tip of Manhattan.

NYU Langone Medical Center is located at East 33rd Street on 1st Avenue. The 50-year-old building sits at sea level atop an extended bulkhead in Kip's Bay.

The hospital had at least two backup generators: one in the basement and one on the roof, according to a spokeswoman. But basement flooding caused one generator to fail, and cut off the fuel supply to the other.

"We've had significant challenges at many of our hospitals and health care facilities," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a press conference, adding that the city health department is sending people to hospitals and chronic care facilities in the worst flood zones.

Bellevue Hospital also lost power Monday night after its back-up electricity generators failed, but Bellevue was able to get its power back up and running, Bloomberg said.

Bellevue has since completed a "partial evacuation," according to city health department spokeswoman Jean Weinberg.

Coney Island Hospital was also evacuated Tuesday, adding to the list of hospitals already emptied of patients ahead of the storm.

Not far away from New York City, Hackensack University Medical Center started receiving patients from Palisades Medical Center, whose back-up generator also failed, at 6 a.m. Although the Palisades generator was restored, conditions were too unstable to restore uninterrupted power, hospital spokeswoman Nancy Radner said. The National Guard was on hand to help transport patients.

"They were struck a bad blow, and they really needed help," said Dr. Joseph Feldman, chairman of emergency services at Hackensack University Medical Center. "So today we've taken about 23 patients already, and I see another caravan of patients are arriving in our ambulance bay."

Patients arrived with nurses from Palisades and packets of information about their medication and other health needs, he said.

"We have more than enough information to work with," Feldman said.

Hackensack is expecting 10 patients on a ventilator or in critical condition, Radner said.

"To transport even one patient in critical condition, who may be on a ventilator with multiple IV drips running on electric pumps, is a major endeavor often requiring three or more medical professionals," said Dr. Jennifer Ashton, Senior Medical Contributor to ABC News.

Although the patients have been successfully relocated, the NYU Langone website, email and phone lines remain down Tuesday.

"It surprises me that NYU could be knocked out by water in the basement," said ABC News chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. "You expect that, with a flood, water will go to the basement, so you can't put all your backup power there."

All accredited U.S. hospitals are required to have backup generators in the event of a power failure, according to Ron Dziedzicki chief support service officer for UH Case Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

"We have 17 generators and four fuel tanks…The maximum amount of time we've run on generators is 72 hours without a refuel," said Dziedzicki, describing how the generators are raised to prevent flooding from nearby Lake Erie and dispersed across the 35-acre campus.

As Sandy moved inland, Dziedzicki braced for possible power outages. But he said he's prepared, thanks to monthly maintenance checks.

"You never know when weather's going to come," he said, describing the regular drill of switching over to backup power for an hour and keeping diesel fuel tanks topped up. If an outage were to outlast the stored fuel, UH Case Medical Center has a "memorandum of understanding" with a fuel supplier.

But even if the backup generators are working properly, the switch over can cause a 10-second lapse in power to lifesaving equipment like ventilators and bypass machines, according to Dziedzicki. At UH Case Medical Center, they have it down to five seconds, he added.

It's unclear whether NYU had additional generators and fuel storage tanks that were unable to meet the hospital's energy needs, which vary with the number of patients and the type of care they need. The hospital discharged roughly 600 patients Friday to "reduce [the] patient load," according to a spokeswoman. But Monday night's emergency evacuation has raised questions about the hospital's emergency planning.

"You never want to be in a situation like NYU faced last night where you have to evacuate during a storm," Besser said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio