Remembering Superstorm Sandy, 1 year later - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Remembering Superstorm Sandy, 1 year later

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Tuesday marked the one year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy's landfall, a massive storm that caused billions of dollars in damages across 12 states.

Thousands of people evacuated as the storm hit, while 8.5 million people lost power, some for weeks.

The Mid-South's Tennessee Task Force 1, a FEMA search and rescue team, was dispatched to help in the search, rescue and recovery. Team members are experts on hurricane recovery efforts, but they're used to the Gulf Coast.

In this case in October 2012, FOX13 News and the task force were in the most densely populated cities in the country in very cold conditions.

The scope of the damage was massive and we saw only a small part of it.

It's been one year since Superstorm Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey. The rains, winds, and storm surges caused damage across a dozen states. As the northeast was getting battered that night, Tennessee Task Force 1 got the call to help out.

Superstorm Sandy was the team's 26th deployment to a disaster zone.

"They're all different," said Kenneth Reeves of Tennessee Task Force 1. "It was really large, it was really frustrating in some ways. But just another mission most of the way."

FOX13 News met up with Reeves is to talk about the deployment a year later. He recalled it was a long trip to the damage. The team was on the road for 25 hours straight for the first leg, from Memphis to Fairfax, Va., by way of Atlanta.

FEMA directed the team to take the long way to the Washington, D.C., area to avoid the storm moving in. By the time the team reached its final destination, the convoy traveled nearly 1,300 miles over three days.

They were sent to Long Beach, N.Y.

"The normal support systems the people counted on were taken away," Reeves said.

The storm surge ravaged the barrier island Long Beach sits on. Homes were destroyed, high rise apartments were empty after the evacuations. It took days for FEMA to assign the team a mission, but when they finally got to the Long Beach area they were going door to door checking on people.

"It was outreach to go to the people, especially the shut-ins, the people that couldn't move the elderly the infirm who couldn't move around on their own," Reeves said. "It was really gratifying to give them what they really needed at that point in time."

One team discovered an elderly woman with dementia who was alone in her home. The team doctor checked her out and they were able to get in touch with a family member.

Tennessee Task Force 1 is an urban search and rescue team, but by the time the unit got to the disaster there wasn't much for them to do. They checked in on people, told them where they could get help. They even gave out their own food at times.

A FEMA team like this one can't go into a community unless the local government invites them. That didn't happen until three days after landfall.

"When people need things the political operators need to make sure that they concerns of their government are taken care of," Reeves said. "I understand that. But it feels like they're in the way."

Reeves added people in the Mid-South can learn from Sandy. He said you need to be prepared for disaster.

"Family preparedness is the only way a community bounces back," he said. "It's the only way we're resilient to things like this. You have to put away the things and make the plans that you need to take care of your family."

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