The worst of superstorm Sandy is over now for Jets tight end Hayden Smith, but after being literally waist-deep in the devastation that hit Hoboken, N.J., where he shares an apartment with his fiancée, the Australian native certainly has a great appreciation for the problems many of his New Jersey neighbors are facing.
Most Jets live closer to the team's training facility in Florham Park, N.J., which is approximately 25 miles west of Newark's Liberty International Airport and is located in wooded surroundings. But Smith, who is a former rugby player, and his fiancée took a sixth-floor apartment in Hoboken when he joined the team in May on his way to earning a spot on the practice squad. When they heard warnings about Sandy, they took precautions and got supplies of food and water, but he admits they "underestimated" the damage the storm might inflict.
Here's Smith's story of their experience and how Jets placekicker Nick Folk and his wife responded to their call for aid: "The storm hit Monday night [Oct. 29], and Tuesday we were in the apartment. On Tuesday afternoon, all the fuel oil overflowed into the water, and it was the fumes from the fuel oil combined with all the sewage that was causing issues. We were advised by the fire department to leave because of the fire risk the fuel oil posed and the fumes were quite overpowering.
"We packed a couple of suitcases and had to wade through about six blocks of waist-high sewage and oil to get out, which was quite a sight. It got pretty real, and we were fortunate to have Nick Folk and his wife come and meet us down on 1st Street in Hoboken. We walked to the railway tracks and made our way down south on the railway tracks to actually get out."
Smith and his fiancée had planned a holiday for the Jets' bye week, and they were able to get away to Rhode Island for a few days of relaxation and relief from the storm. By the time they returned, the water had receded, and the cleanup effort was underway.
"It's still quite eerie, though, coming back into Hoboken," Smith said. "We came back on Sunday, and Hoboken still was largely out of power. There's debris everywhere and huge piles of stuff that's been dragged out of apartments and left as waste. It's eerie to see Salvation Army trucks on the corner with water and food. It demonstrates how seriously people were affected."
Because they live on the sixth floor, living conditions in Smith's apartment are fine. But the building garage is on the first floor. "I actually lost my car in the flooding," Smith said. "The water was up to the windows on my car, and it was kind of floating around the garage. Fortunately, it's insured so there's no huge issue. Everyone's cars were affected in the garage, and the lobby was obviously affected. Water was coming three or four steps up into the first floor."
The smell at ground level reeks of mildew, and the interior walls have been water-damaged and must be replaced. But the brick exterior is sound. "The elevators don't work, so, we get a bit of an extra workout carrying our shopping up six floors, which is not the worst thing," Smith said with a smile. "It makes us appreciate it. The power came back on Sunday, so, we're very fortunate. We're actually one of the first blocks to come on in Hoboken. Life's returned to some sort of normalcy."
Of course, Smith's hope is that all the storm's victims can overcome the hardships they face as soon as possible.