Hurricane Sandy Update: Belmar – Will Things Ever Be The Same?

We’ve been moving up the coast, speaking to musicians that have lived through one of the worst storms of recent times. Some have come through minus cherished items, memories and instruments, while some have been fortunate enough to dodge that bullet. Stories of limited help from government agencies and insurance companies abound. Belmar was a town hit hard, and I took a story from local musician David Fagan, a member of Snowball 37, who gave a personal and jaw-dropping view on his experience:

“On October 29, 2012, our house was flooded during Hurricane Sandy. My girlfriend Connie and I lost a great deal because of the storm. Flooding destroyed the entire first floor of the house we live in, which includes our bedroom, bathroom, office/computer room, as well as our garage, which is where I had a rehearsal space/writing space with a full recording rig, and also our PT Cruiser, which was our touring vehicle for every show we play.

We were hit with a major downpour shortly after several power transformers exploded within a couple of blocks of us. Sometime after 9 p.m., several inches of water began flooding the house—we eventually had 19 inches of standing water in the house for a couple of days—and we tried stopping the rushing water from coming in with towels, buckets, and then all of the clothes we owned, until we gave up. By 2 a.m., we also gave up trying to clean up the mess, to save battery power in our flashlights. Our cars were sitting in two feet of water in the driveway, dying slowly, with headlights shining and interior lights flashing.

Outside, our street had become a lake. Our neighbors were trying to get to their cars and get out of the area, which most failed to do. Inside the house, we had lost the furnace and hot water heater, and since we were immersed in about two feet of water, temperature was dropping steadily. We went upstairs to the living room, which was full of whatever we could salvage, and lay awake wondering if we were going to live through this. We had no power, heat, running water, no phone/cell phone service, no internet, and because of downed power lines in the area lying in the standing water outside, we couldn’t even safely leave the house.

When the sun rose, we saw how badly our neighborhood had been damaged. People were rowing down our street in canoes to survey the devastation. We had no idea about what we were going to do, so around 10 a.m., we fell asleep on the couch. My brother had come down from Bloomfield, knocking on our door, to our surprise, to bring us up to his apartment. The reason for surprise was the standing water had disappeared, like a bad dream.

During the month we spent with my brother in Bloomfield, we were fighting every step of the way against our car insurance just to rent a vehicle so we could travel the hour distance back home every day to clean up; against our homeowner’s and flood insurance; and FEMA, who was understandably overwhelmed, but completely uncooperative; and we even had to fight to buy groceries the first few days, since supermarket shelves were empty with no deliveries made due to the storm.

After a month with my brother, we found a place in Asbury Park to rent, and that’s where we stand. We’re still waiting for our house to be repaired. [At the time of this writing, the progress of the renovation is less than 10 percent.] We’re obviously staying in constant contact with all parties involved, but we’re under their thumb, forced to go through the motions, waiting for the work to finally be done.

In addition to collectibles, we lost a great deal of equipment. Guitars, a bass, speakers, keyboards, my main touring amplifier, a drum set, our laptops, cameras and backup hard drives of photos & demos. We also lost our furniture, more than half of our clothes, and a majority of our music collection on vinyl and CD. While our homeowner’s insurance would have covered the contents for a fire, they do not cover flood. We’ve spent a lot of our savings purchasing used equipment so we could get back to work right away.

The flood waters came from the bay just a couple of blocks from us, and were the most toxic saltwater you could imagine. It took us a few days to find all of the dead fish that were washed into the house.

We bought a van in February and drove out to Austin, Texas, to play a few unofficial, last minute shows at South By Southwest. We lucked out getting these shows, and the rest of the band was even able to fly down and play. Just a few weeks ago, we finished and released a new album entitled Declasse, which we started in September. The cover of the album was shot in our backyard, with some of the personal belongings we lost.

We’re back making music and taking pictures, living around the nearly seven months of mess from Sandy, and a lot more to come.”


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(Photo by Conni Freestone)