NORWALK, Conn. – On Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, homeowners in the Harbor View section of South Norwalk will be holding a Stick It To Sandy Party. It’s only appropriate, given that Sandy did the same to 109 homes on the island community on the same day last year.
Some residents still have not returned to their homes at Harbor View, where most of the homes were built in the early 1900s as summer residences for city dwellers. The homes have been converted to year-round residences over the past 40 years, and water access is one of the primary draws.
The island was among the hardest hit sections in Norwalk, with water soaking nearly 90 of the residences. Trees fell on roofs, and roads were flooded for days. In the past week, 11 houses were raised in preparation for future storms.
Katherine Snedaker, who has lived in Harbor View for 20 years, was forced out of her home for seven months. She evacuated before the storm hit, and returned home to find a 100-year-old oak tree had crushed the roof, six feet of water was in her basement and her furnace, hot water heater and electrical outlets and fixtures had been destroyed.
“We had never lost that much before,’’ Snedaker said. “We had lost hot water heaters before, but we never had any water in the house. Everyone was devastated.”
Snedaker and her three sons lived with a friend in Norwalk for nine days and then rented a “Sandy Special” in Stamford for a month. Her boys missed Norwalk, and felt fortunate to find a monthly rental in East Norwalk. “With three kids and two dogs, we’re not exactly the family people want to rent to,’’ she said.
She said that shortly after the storm, neighbors organized a Neighborhood Watch to deter looters. The Norwalk Fire Department brought lunch to the residents for five days, and the Red Cross also delivered supplies. “We had seen this in other disasters,’’ she said. “But you couldn’t believe it was you.”
She said neighbors were in shock afterward, and FEMA workers said, essentially, be patient. “They said, 'We’re here, but it’s going to take a long time,'’’ she said. “They were good about saying it was going to take a long time.”
Snedaker experienced price gouging from a company that sought to remove the tree that demolished her roof. “They wanted $20,000 to get a crane there the first week,’’ she said. “The next week, it was $7,000. If the 50-ton tree hadn’t been sitting on the house for a week, it might have fared a little bit better.”
Insurance covered repairs, but Snedaker said it took time to feel like she was home. “All the grass was gone, your friends are still out, then you have to find stuff,’’ she said. “It’s not like you pack up and move. We evacuated, grabbed some stuff, came back a month later, and grabbed some more stuff. The good thing is my kids did a really intense clean. We have a lot less. A lot of the stuff we owned was ruined in the basement.”
Even now, one year later and in her home for five months, Snedaker said it still doesn’t feel the same.
“In general most people have their yards back together,’’ she said. “It’s not totally the same. There’s just some neat things that are no longer here. But you look at what happened in Newtown last December, and I’m sure they’d trade places with us.”