The members of the Indiana District 2 Task Force and Incident Management Team made it home safely Saturday night after spending two weeks on the East Coast and helping with recovery efforts in the Long Beach, Lido and Atlantic Beach areas.
Starke County EMA Director Ted Bombagetti was one of those members and said they were first deployed to Baltimore as it was thought that Hurricane Sandy might do the most damage there, but were later deployed into New York to assist with cleanup efforts there.
“The Long Beach area we were in was the Barrier Islands and it was a flood that wrecked this community,” explained Bombagetti. “They had between four and eight feet of water from the tidal surge that came in and mounds of sand were everywhere. The folks that were able to start cleaning their homes out had their personal debris alongside the roads.”
Supplying food and water to those in need was the first order of business. He said one of the biggest obstacles was getting the infrastructure up and running.
“When we arrived, there were no utilities of any kind,” Bombagetti said. “We had no running water, no sewers, no electricity, no natural gas, and fuel for vehicles was non-existent when we first got into town.”
Mobility was extremely difficult due to the large amount of sand that blanketed the area. Crews were brought in to help move the sand.
“Sand brought up a special problem because once it became ashore, being that the sewage plant did flood, there was the possibility of the sand being contaminated,” Bombagetti explained. “So, all the sand had to be stored so the environmental folks could go through it and check it out to make sure it is okay to go back out on the beaches.”
Power was also slow to be restored due to the salt water that corroded the electrical fixtures.
“As power grids would be turned on, houses were catching on fire,” Bombagetti said. “They were calling to have electricians come in and check the homes out before the grids would be turned on and that slowed the process down also. Cars would catch on fire because of the salt water corroding the electrical system. You’d be standing there and all of a sudden you’d smell smoke and see a car burst into flames.”
Several ambulances and other Indiana Department of Homeland Security personnel were deployed for this round of aide. As those members returned to Indiana, more personnel were sent to the New York area to take their place.
“Upon our departure, the Long Beach area requested a team come in and requested that that team come from Indiana also. They were very, very happy with our efforts,” Bombagetti said.
Bombagetti said that the personnel who just returned aren’t expected to be sent back to that area, but they showed that they are prepared to handle an emergency situation whether it be on Indiana soil or abroad.