By Lars Dalseide | December 9 2012 09:51

New York rebuilds and recovers following Hurricane Sandy

Humvees meet in the street during a Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New York

NRA's American Warrior Magazine sent J.R. Salzam into the mix for a firsthand look at the Hurricane Sandy cleanup efforts up in New York. Here's his report:
Following in the footsteps of Sandy
NRA American Warrior correspondent J.R. Salzam is embedded with New York National Guard troops in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

"Guardian 3-0, this is Apache 6. SP time now, 3 pax, 1 victor, moving out into the area of West Rockaway. How copy, over.”

The Humvee’s engine roars as the soldier behind the wheel steps on the accelerator and we exit Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, headed toward the Belt Parkway. I am a passenger inside the up-armored Humvee riding along with members of the New York National Guard during their missions in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

A beach side home, draped in an American Flag, lays in ruin in New York after Hurricane Sandy

The vehicle’s commander and my leader for the day is Capt. Frank Engle of the Alpha Troop, 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry out of Geneva, N.Y. He is an Afghanistan veteran who has been on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy for a few days now with his troops, tackling various missions as they come down.

“It’s kind of like Afghanistan,” Capt. Engle shouts above the engine’s roar. “You have centers of power that, they’re the ones you want to talk to, to make stuff happen.”

He explains further that in some areas, the fire department is the center of power; in other areas it might be a church.

“A lot of these communities have banded together,” he adds. “We are just there to facilitate. They’re the ones doing most of the real change.”

Soldiers stacking water and supplies in Rockaway, New York after frankenstorm Sandy

I peer through the inches-thick ballistic glass window at the world passing outside. As we near Coney Island, Hurricane Sandy’s destruction becomes apparent. Trees and fences are knocked over. Debris lies in the streets, strewn about from the rush of seawater. The neighborhoods are still without power.

As we approach Floyd Bennett Field, the enormity of the operation comes into view. Row after row of semi-trailers are parked, full of supplies. Tents and trailers are scattered about amid military vehicles and ambulances. Generators run on semi-trailers, supplying power to the mini city. Except for the lack of guard towers and concertina wire, the whole operation looks like an FOB in Iraq or Afghanistan.

“This should be a pretty packed time; it should be rush hour,” Capt. Engle shouts as we cross the Marine Parkway Bridge. “There’s no one coming the opposite way to go to work.”

As we descend from the enormous steel structure over Jamaica Bay, Jacob Riis Park comes into view. What is normally used as a parking lot is now an enormous mountain of trash, storm debris and sand, hauled from the streets of Rockaway in the hurricane’s aftermath. The sheer size of the debris mountain is just a small indication of the amount of destruction that has taken place here. According to Capt. Engle, just three days earlier the park was empty.

Residence of Rockaway, New York receiving assistance from National Guard soldiers following frankenstorm Sandy

As we make our way toward Rockaway, the extent of Sandy’s damage becomes more and more apparent. Streets are clogged with mountains of sand. At times we have to drive over the median to traverse the street made narrow by stalled cars, sand and debris.

At one point, the Humvee’s mirror is nearly ripped from the vehicle as it makes contact with a parked dump truck. Buildings have obvious mud lines on the outside indicating how high the storm surge reached. Construction equipment and dump trucks clog intersections, working to clean up the sand. It is an upper-class neighborhood with expensive cars in the driveways.

After a few minutes of traversing narrow streets and averting collisions at inoperable stoplights, we make our way to the parking lot of a Waldbaum’s supermarket on Beach Channel Drive. It has been set up as a ground zero of sorts for the relief effort in this western section of Rockaway.

Beach road in New York still in disrepair following Hurricane Sandy

Read the full report on the Hurricane Sandy cleanup in New York with American Warrior Magazine.

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