Sandy survivor: "At night, we are so cold"

As parts of the East Coast continue recovery efforts in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, a nor'easter threatens to add to the misery of hard-hit areas.

World Vision's Laura Reinhardt shares the story of a family whose apartment flooded, leaving them to face bone-chilling nights without power or heat ever since.

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That’s how 12-year-old Travis Marshall describes the bitter cold he and his mother face when they go to bed at night.

Superstorm Sandy left them homeless when floodwaters rushed into their first-floor apartment in the Far Rockaway section of Queens.

Travis eyes a head-high stack of blankets, part of the relief supplies delivered by World Vision’s disaster response team to Upper Room International Ministries, where Travis and his mother are staying.

“I could sleep with all of them at once,” he says.

When Sandy hit, Travis and his mother, Sandra Pommell, 45, watched in horror as the water rose in their ground-floor apartment.

There was no rain, so she couldn’t understand where the water was coming from.

“I started to remember [what] they said back home [in Jamaica],” she says. “They said it was a tidal wave. It looks like the sea is taking its course.”

Travis feared that both he and his mother would drown as the waters rose with alarming speed. They didn’t have time to save anything, but took shelter with an upstairs neighbor. All night long, they kept vigil to make sure the water didn’t come all the way to the second floor.

Everything is gone

“We had to throw out everything,” says Sandra when they returned to their apartment.

Except, that is, for the few pieces of clothing that she is now laying out to dry in the church parking lot.

“I’m trying to dry some clothes, some sweaters, to see if I can save them,” she says. She needs these clothes so that she and Travis have more to put on when they go to bed at night.

They have a place to stay, but a week after the storm, there’s still no power or heat.

World Vision employees unload blankets and other relief items for distribution in Far Rockaway, New York. (Photo: Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

“At night, we are so cold,” says Sandra.

With daytime temperatures in the 40s, the sun doesn’t offer much warmth to dry out the clothes, but it’s the best she can do.

She and Travis sleep on mattresses that were wet on the bottom from the flood. They’ve covered them in plastic to keep out the damp. In the morning, Sandra’s hands are so cramped with cold she can’t even soap up her washcloth.

Travis suffers more in the cold. He has asthma, and Sandra had to take him to the hospital twice in the past week because of attacks brought on by cold temperatures.

Despite her own losses, Sandra feels for the other families who have lost everything.

“It’s terrible to see the children in this cold,” she says. She sees families walking along the beach in the cold, the children with runny noses.

The area is bracing for a nor’easter that is predicted to bring 55-mph winds, high tides, rain, and possibly snow.

Temperatures could drop into the 30s later this week, bringing more hardship to the hundreds of thousands of people whose homes are still without electricity.

Church partners provide relief

“I think that the tidal wave and the hurricane was one issue," says Pastor Courtney Brown of Upper Room Church in Far Rockaway, "but the lack of electricity created a domino effect that I don’t think was properly planned or prepared for.

“No light means the food spoils in the fridge. And it means the boilers don’t work; no heat. And so that’s created its own situation,” adds Pastor Brown.

Pastor Brown’s church is trying to help as many families as possible.

In support, World Vision brought in relief supplies for the church to distribute, including bottled water, World Vision Family Food Kits, packages of cookies donated by a New York bakery, and blankets.

World Vision's Family Food Kits are enough to feed a family of five for a day. (Photo: Naomi Lasdon/Genesis Photos)

“Folks right now are in dire need of immediate day-to-day food. There’s no way without refrigeration to preserve anything,” says Pastor Brown.

Sandra has seen other families struggling to find food.

“So [many] people are suffering a lot. They’re cold. [For] some people, it’s meal by meal,” she says. “So they [have] to go every day on the street to find food.”

World Vision’s Family Food Kits provide enough food to feed a family of five for a day. All ingredients are included, and people only need to add hot water.

Pastor Brown worries about families who have lost their cars -- and with them, a way to get to work. Others’ workplaces were lost in flooding, and so those families are without a source of income.

Sandra hasn’t worked at her job cleaning homes on Long Island since the storm hit. She doesn’t have any extra money to provide for herself and Travis.

“I don’t have anything, but as long as I have life, I believe God is going to work it out,” she says.

Read related post: Storm recovery especially hard on children

Read more about World Vision's response to Superstorm Sandy's devastation along the U.S. East Coast. Please join us in continuing to pray for the affected children, families, and communities. Pray, too, for those who are on the ground now, working tirelessly to bring much-needed relief to those in great need.

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    Thank u world vision,God wl strenghten u more. And for those families that are in hardship,i pray for the peace of God over them and God should give them hope for living nd facing the future. Amen. Tosin Obayele from Nigeria.

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