One Year After Hurricane Irene Some Residents Still Looking for Answers
Some Mariners Cove residents still in their homes while others leave
For the residents of Mariners Cove, the memories of Hurricane Irene are still fresh one year later.
The ones that remain from the most affected areas remember being rescued by boats from their houses in the cul-de-sac before coming home to houses damaged by water, mud and debris the storm and the Manasquan River whipped around.
In the wake of the storm several high profile officials including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno and Rep. Chris Smith came to the neighborhood as well as representatives from FEMA and the township and county governments.
Since the storm many of the residents in the most heavily affected area have decided to look elsewhere for housing while three families have stayed behind. Dawn Silva and Madeline Novello are two who say they are still waiting on answers that will help them move on with their lives. "You don't walk away from a problem, you face it head on," Silva said. "Teaching my kids to walk away from something is not going to teach them anything."
From houses that have been boarded up to overgrown lawns in front of the empty houses to an overflowing dumpster there are still signs of the damage that was done not only by the hurricane, but also a storm the week before that also flooded parts of the town.
Even with all the damage surrounding them, Silva said she is determined to stay until there is a resolution that she hopes will come soon. "You live moment to moment, second to second," she said. "You don't make any rash decisions because ultimately we are still responsible to pay for the property, this home, the mortgage, the property, the maintenance fees."
She said she knows if she wanted she could probably sell the house for even a small amount, but that is not something she is considering doing. "At the end of the day I wouldn't sell this headache to anyone," she said. "I don't want a single family to go through what we've gone through the last year. No one should have to live like this."
Novello said since the hurricane flooding in the neighborhood has become more common as the river that goes around the houses stays at a high level. "The creek has never gone down," she said. "Normally it goes to a low level but since the hurricane it's so swollen that the water has nowhere to go."
Silva said that now when heavy rains hit the township it is not uncommon for them to get a call from someone at the township's Office of Emergency Management (OEM). "Howell OEM has us on speed dial and calls us to see if we need help," she said. "He's calling us to see if we're okay, not the other way around so they know it's a problem."
Since Irene Novello said she has had to put a lot of money into her house to make it livable while remembering the lessons of the storm. "My house was fixed, but to spend that kind of money again, I can't."
Silva said since the storm she has researched ways to get money to remedy her situation and sought help from the same elected officials who came to her house in the aftermath. "Someone just has to step up to the plate and stop pointing the fingers of whose responsibility it is and help us out," she said. "Enough is enough."
Deputy Mayor William Gotto said that there has been work going on to help the residents since the storm. "That area, and doing something to benefit those affected homeowners is a priority of ours," he said of the governing body. Those discussions have included a number of different agencies who he is hopeful will be able to work together to find a solution.
Gotto said the discussions have included looking at different options like Green Acres and Blue Acres grants. The problem, he said, is that townships and municipalities throughout the state and the region are also looking at those same funds. "Every town that had flooding from the hurricane had to go through that program," he said. "Now that that process has been completed we're evaluating what our other options are."
Novello said after a year they want to know when they will know what will happen. "How long does the process take?" she said. "Is it going to take us six years? A year? we want out now. We want to start our lives over."
The neighborhood she lives in now is not the same one she has known since moving in many years ago. "The amount of damage is insurmountable," she said. "My kids can't play in the backyard because it's a war zone."
Looking around now, she added, "What once was a beautiful place to live is now a sight for people to come down and see the carnage. People still come down a year later."
Even surrounded by all the damage Silva said life has to go on especially as a mother of four. "At the end of the day, I'm doing mother things. I'm doing laundry, I'm cooking food, I'm grocery shopping, doing the things that a mother of four young kids does."
Some parts of their house, including their kitchen look like they did before the storm, but Silva said it is not the same house. "We want to close a chapter on this and start our new life in a new home again where we can walk in the door and go ahhh, peace," she said.
Knowing their houses could flood again at a moment's notice is something both agree weighs on them when storms approach the area. "The cleaning up, everything drains you," Novello said. "It's physically and mentally exhausting."
The fact that they do not know when there will a resolution is also stressful according to Silva. "We want to know there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that someone is stepping in and hasn't forgotten about us," she said.
Silva said even though this is the one year anniversary of the day their lives were turned upside down she does not focus on the date. "It's not something that we're like 'oh my god it was a year ago today,'" she said. "It's not something I want to remember. I want to get over this."
She said when the five year anniversary rolls around she wants Hurricane Irene to be a distant memory with her family in a new home living like they did before the storm. "We want to be in a beautiful house with my four kids enjoying life."
To see more of FEMA's involvement with the people on Mariner's Cove, check out the photo galleries on their website.