Consumer Reports releases Sandy survey; superstorm's effect still felt across metro area

Superstorm Sandy subsided six months ago, but its effects are still being felt by people across the New York metro area, according to a survey released Monday by Consumer Reports.

The online survey, conducted by the Consumer Reports Research Center in March, collected responses from more than 8,300 subscribers from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

"We wanted to see how disruptive the storm had been," Eileen McCooey, deputy editor of electronics at Consumer Reports, said in an interview. "We covered a wide spectrum of topics -- from flooding damage to loss of power, how it affected their jobs and ability to earn a living, and the services that most of us had come to take for granted."


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Ninety percent of the survey-takers were homeowners and 10 percent rented, she said.

Nearly half of all claims for $40,000 or more in damage from Sandy were still pending in March, according to Consumer Reports, a testing and consumer advocacy nonprofit organization. In all, 54 percent of the homeowners reported property damage, with 44 percent experiencing minor and 10 percent experiencing major damage.

Those are numbers that Deanna Di Monda, 61, of Blue Point said she can relate to. The bay broke through a window, flooding the home that she shared with her 92-year-old mother.

Di Monda said she received a check for $89,000 from flood insurance, but the U.S. Small Business Administration appraised $618,000 in damages to her property, its contents, bulkheading and landscaping.

The bank wouldn't deposit the $89,000 check until Di Monda secured a contract from a contractor that was agreeable to the bank's terms: being paid during different stages of the rebuilding process.

"It's worse than it was the day of the storm. After Sandy, we had hope. Now there are so many obstacles that make it more and more hopeless," she said, her voice cracking. "I've filled out so much paperwork . . . It's like having a number of full-time jobs and not getting anywhere."

The survey showed that 20 percent of the homeowners who experienced major property damage said their homes were still uninhabitable in March, and nearly 30 percent of all homeowners whose homes experienced flood damage had no flood insurance.

Trish Devenish, 41, of Massapequa, said her family would be lucky to return to their home by the end of the year -- even though they had flood insurance.

She has to rebuild the house that was flooded with 2 feet of water and more than 150 gallons of oil from an abandoned tank under the house. "You go into it today, and you'll pass out from the fumes," she said.

Devenish, her husband and two young children live in a mobile home on their front lawn. "We just want to be in a house again. It's hard," she said. "We've had to change the way we live." The aftermath of Sandy also took a toll on gasoline. The survey shows that price gauging at the pump was most common on Long Island at 48 percent, compared to 39 percent in Westchester County, 18 percent on the New Jersey Shore, 17 percent in Fairfield County and 9 percent in Coastal Connecticut, east of Fairfield County.

Al Carfora, 63, of the Harbor Isle section of Island Park, said both of his cars were flooded during Sandy. He finally got a rental car one month after the storm and didn't mind paying $4.39 per gallon.

"That was the most I ever paid for gas in my life," Carfora said. "You didn't really care at that point how much gas cost. You wanted to do what you had to do to get Coca-Cola and a slice of pizza."

Though subscribers are "not necessarily representative of the U.S. population as a whole," McCooey said, their stories are instructive.

"It's the beginning of hurricane season coming up ... and unfortuantely, severe weather is more common," she said. "By distilling the experiences of the Sandy victims, we can see the problems that are the most common and offer advice on how you can cope with them if you find yourself in that situation."

The full report, posted on consumerreports.org, offers tips on disaster preparation from experts. It is available for those who do not subscribe to Consumer Reports.

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