Student body recovers and gives back after Hurricane Sandy

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Minah Kim

Students carry paper towels and toilet paper outside to load into a car. Students donate hygienic products for areas of Long Island still recovering from Hurricane Sandy’s devastation. Below: Junior Amelia Pacht sorts donated items in the lobby. Diapers and baby wipes are some of the most needed items.

Ana Espinoza and Minah Kim, Ana Espinoza, and Minah Kim

Hurricane Sandy devastated Long Island and changed lives, leaving many homes ravaged by floods and high winds or without power.

Although power has been restored to Port Washington, some areas were without power longer than others.  LIPA restored power to Manorhaven less than a week after the storm, but restoring power to areas of Sands Point and Salem proved to be a much lengthier process.

Many students and staff members without power resided with friends or family for the duration of the power outage, while others remained in their homes and used generators.

“We had a generator for the refrigerator and a couple of lights, but no heat,” said social studies teacher Dr. David O’Connor.

In the aftermath of the storm, the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management (PWMOEM) has encouraged residents to sign up for North Shore Alerts as a part of storm recovery and preparation for future emergencies.

Shelters have been available for residents without power since the storm.  The PWMOEM moved the town’s public shelter to the Port Washington Public Library on Nov. 8, and it remained there through the following weekend.  Volunteers distributing water, MREs, and information were stationed in the lobby. The library helped residents affected by the storm before becoming a shelter by offering stations to charge electronic devices.  During the first weekend after the storm, the library counted 1400 devices connected to its wireless network.

“The Library was incredibly busy starting with the day after the storm hit,” said library director Ms. Nancy Curtin. “We put extra strips everywhere so people could charge their devices.  We put extra chairs near all the plugs and chairs where people could relax, get warm and check their mail.”

The library also served free coffee and showed movies and programming to entertain families residing at the shelter.

“It was wonderful to be able to help people and to see that our residents were so comfortable in what felt like a community living room,” said Ms. Curtin.

Students and staff took different approaches to dealing with the storm and its aftereffects, especially losing power.

“Having no power was very irritating.  It was freezing at night and there was nothing to do, but I did get my homework done,” said sophomore Rachel Ellerson.  “It was kind of nice to have a week to chill, but also stressful. It was a little bit of both. I would support an annual October break.”

Electricity in most Port Washington homes returned by Nov. 16.

Although mary Port Washington residents have recovered completely, nearby areas are still suffering.  Several groups in the school have made efforts to help people in Long Beach, Island Park, and other areas of Long Island.  Board of Education President Ms. Karen Sloan reached out to Oceanside School District, and the HSA subsequently organized a district-wide collection of school supplies.

“It is always heartwarming to see how much this community cares about others even when they are suffering,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick.

The English Honor Society used $200 that the club had accumulated over the years from bake sales to donate school supplies at Staples to Oceanside School District.

“Without reams of paper, binders, pens, etc. it is really hard to have anything close to a normal school.  If you think about how much paper teachers hand out in one day, without such basic school supplies, school is so much less productive,” said senior Miles Kurtz, Vice President of English Honor Society.  “Right now, I am sure the school district just wants to go back to being as normal as possible and we are trying to assist them.”

The English Honor Society is also running a book drive for “reading Dreams” and the books collected will go towards restocking libraries and schools affected by Hurricane Sandy.

The Human Relations Club collected donations of diapers, wipes, and other basic supplies to donate to Long Beach.  Junior Jamie Sall had connections to Long Beach where the club donated all the collected items.

“It is important to help people in need and we should all pull together to help people affected by this storm,” said junior Jamie Sall.

English teacher Ms. Zarkh and several students also organized a drive for Island Park, which collected toilet paper, paper towels, diapers, and hygiene kits including shampoo, soap, and toothbrushes.