Like most of America, I have been glued to my television since Sandy first collided into the East coast on Monday night. The images and reports of the devastation left in the hurricane's wake is overwhelming.
Some of you readers may recall that on May 1-2, 2010 Nashville experienced what has since been called "A Hundred Year Flood." The area sustained $2.3 billion in property damage and 31 lives were lost.
While I wasn't directly impacted by the flood, I have hundreds of friends, neighbors and acquaintances who were deeply affected by the tragedy. In light of the current events taking place in the Northeast, I would like to share five things that my community learned during the 2010 Nashville flood.
1. The Government Isn't Going To Save You
Since Hurricane Sandy hit, the news has been filled with countless victims making impassioned pleas for the federal government to swoop in and rescue them. I have some bad news... The government isn't going to save you.
Yes, eventually the fine folks at FEMA will make their way to all of the victims and offer some sort-of financial help. Unfortunately, in most cases, it won't come close to covering the losses sustained during this disaster.
People who were fortunate enough to have hurricane, flood or fire insurance will get to spend weeks and months battling with their insurance companies to reach an agreement. Those who were uninsured will be, for the most part, on their own.
I can name dozens and dozens of families who sustained $40-100k + in damage and their FEMA payout was just a few thousand dollars. While every penny helps in the rebuilding process, the payout was just a drop in the bucket.
That leads me to my second point...
2. You Have To Stick Together
Since the government isn't going to ride in like a white knight and rescue you, you have to stick together. Communities, organizations and church groups need to take the lead in helping those that have been affected by this disaster.
If you were fortunate enough to emerge after Sandy virtually unscathed, think about helping with the clean up efforts, preparing meals for families, donating clothing/supplies and giving monetarily to the relief efforts. If you have the room, offer to let someone who has been displaced move in with you for a season.
It really doesn't matter what you do. The main point is to step in and help where and when you can. Your friends and neighbors need you. And isn't that what American is all about?
3. Start Your Demolition Now
I cannot stress the importance of this point enough. The longer the water-logged drywall, flooring and subfloor sits, the worse it's going to be. You run the risk of having an even bigger problem on your hands... MOLD.
Grab a hammer, crowbar, saw, baseball bat... whatever you can find and start your demolition now.
Drywall and insulation needs to be removed 1 foot above the water line. It doesn't have to be pretty, just tear it out. Then attack your carpet, flooring and subfloor. If you have a crawlspace or basement, remove any duct work or insulation that was underwater. Waterlogged siding needs to be removed too. The rule: anything that was wet has to go.
Once your power has been restored, rent or purchase some big industrial fans and get some air circulating. The quicker you get things dried out, the better.
Don't worry about hauling away the debris. In my experience, the city will provide dumpsters and handle the disposal for you. Just pile all of the rubble, furniture included, at the curb.
As I said before, you need to work together. Speed is key. In the Nashville area, I saw entire neighborhoods joining forces to get the demo done. Moving from house to house, teams of people were able to clean out 4-5 homes per day.
If your insurance policy will cover some/all of the cost of repairs, make sure you take ample pictures to document the damage before you begin demolition. It will allow you to being the drying out process without having to wait days, weeks or months for an insurance adjuster to arrive.
4. Make Sure Your Tetanus Shot Is Current
I've been hearing reports that much of the standing water has contaminated with raw sewage. Double yuck!
If you have come in contact with standing water or anything that was soaked with flood water, you need to make sure your tetanus shot is up to date. The last thing you need is to endure is a nasty case of lockjaw, wind up in the hospital or suffer permanent muscle damage because you didn't have the proper vaccine.
In my community, inoculation centers were set up on people's front lawns. The local health department was happy to provide the vaccines and they were administered by volunteers (typically nurses who lived in the area).
5. This Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint
Let's be honest. The cleanup and rebuilding process is going to take months, even years. It is important to remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
A disaster on this scale is overwhelming at best. It's enough to bring even the strongest and most resourceful among us to their knees. We're just human.
Sometimes the only thing you can do is to put one foot in front of the other. Take a minute to get your bearings, assess the situation and then and do the first thing that you know to do. Pray for an extra dose, or ten, of patience. You're going to need it.
I'm not going to lie. 2 1/2 years after the great Nashville flood, there are families that are still struggling to rebuilding their lives. But don't despair. The good news is that you will survive this tragedy. It's going to be rough for a season, but you will be stronger for having walked through the storm.