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Lessons from superstorm Sandy can help victims in Houston

Cars drive through flooded streets from Tropical Storm

Cars drive through flooded streets from Tropical Storm Harvey in Orange, Texas, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017. Credit: AP / Gerald Herbert

Floodwaters finally are receding in and near Houston, and some semblance of normalcy is returning to some parts of Texas battered by Hurricane Harvey — even as the monster storm moves on to Louisiana and other states.

Now Texas is learning what Long Islanders discovered nearly five years ago after superstorm Sandy ripped through the region: The storm is gone, but there is no end to the heartache and headaches.

The death toll in Texas has topped 30, and with some people still missing that count is expected to rise. Tens of thousands of structures have been damaged or destroyed, many of them uninsured, and there seems to be no end to the homeless population. Residents will be plagued by mold and mildew, and by mosquitoes carrying diseases.

Then there is the water that remains — a fetid stew laced with waste, debris and toxic chemicals, spawning fears of infectious diseases like cholera. The city’s gigantic petroleum complex released more than 2 million pounds of hazardous substances into the air. Private wells used by hundreds of thousands of Texans also are at risk for contamination.

The financial toll at this moment is incalculable. But on Long Island, we know what awaits — the long, arduous and often frustrating task of recovery. We hope everyone involved in helping Texans get back on their feet learns from what happened after Sandy.

Congress must make sure disaster aid is readily available, as it was to our region. The Federal Emergency Management Agency must operate more effectively than it did after Sandy, when it took too long to get recovery money to too many people, and when fraudulently altered engineering reports led to lower payments or denials of claims.

No one should think this process will go quickly, least of all President Donald Trump, who is scheduled to return to Texas tomorrow and who seems eager to claim success on behalf of his administration. That evaluation won’t be made for months, or years.

On Long Island, we’re still rebuilding and fortifying in some places, some victims still are not back in their homes, and some remediation has yet to begin. We’ve learned that we have not always built wisely, and that we increased our vulnerability. Houston is beginning to realize that, too.

Long Islanders understand the sense of susceptibility now felt by Texans. It’s up to each of us here to offer them some measure of support, like that which was extended to us in our darkest hours. It will be a long road back for Texas. Let’s do what we can to shorten the journey.