Taking on the Storm: 'We Were Not Prepared to See the Damage'

Hurricane Sandy relief volunteer Byron Corley, of Union City, gives us another day-to-day glimpse of the storm’s aftermath.

Tri-Cities residents Byron and Beatriz Corley, of Union City, are among the thousands of Red Cross volunteers helping with relief efforts on the east coast in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Read their previous guest columns here.

Nov. 9, 2012

The shelter workers have finally figured out what their jobs are, their shift and duty stations and things have become routine. You would think that things in general had improved but they have not.

Most of the clients have finally come to terms with their predicament and quite a few do not like it at all. It is not uncommon now to see them sitting on their cots crying and wondering out loud what they are going to do.

Clients Services and Case Workers from the Red Cross are on site now so individual and family interviews are ongoing. Their decisions are being made; ready or not. These decisions are traumatic and all of us are empathetic to the emotional state of folks we have come to know. Most of us thought that clients would be excited about leaving the shelter, but that is not the case in so many instances. It takes a toll on the volunteers also and some deal with it better than others.

We realized from the start that we were a small part of this disaster but the enormity of it is filtering down now. The sheer numbers of ERVs, workers involved and meals that have been served is staggering.

Beatriz and I had an afternoon off, finally, and drove to the neighboring town of Atlantic Highlands to eat dinner. All of these towns are right on the coast and suffered massive damage. We were not prepared to see how much damage there was. The amount of cleanup will take months if not years.

The police still have the heavily damaged areas cordoned off but seem to be willing to talk about it when they find out we are volunteers from out of state. In most cases they are from out of state themselves but have been briefed on what they will see.

Tomorrow we can have a day off for R&R so we are exploring the possible places to go. The ferries and trains are not running and the tunnel to NY is still flooded so we will have to find a bridge. Someone mentioned that we may be able to get a bus ride to the city and since I am not crazy about driving anyway, we may follow that lead. NYC has its own problems and damage so we may be disappointed with the trip. We will see.

Nov. 11, 2012

We had our day of R&R in NYC and it went very well, all things considered. We caught the bus locally and for $7.50 each way we were transported to the bus station in NYC and back. Heck, the bridge toll is $12 so it was a bargain and only took one and a half hours each way.

We met up with our daughter at Times Square and took the subway downtown to the Brooklyn Bridge. Beatriz had a desire to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, so we did. We walked around Brooklyn for a while, then took the subway back to Chinatown and had dinner. We then had a short walk in Central Park and then back to the bus at 6 p.m.

We are now down to about 25 clients now and most of them are making outside arrangements now that they have had a few days respite to collect their thoughts and assess their situations. Little Jack, with his parents and siblings, have gone home now that they have power. He came by and said goodbye and we had a good hug.

We will probably process out on Wednesday and fly home on Thursday.

But, there is one subject I must touch on before closing down: New Jersey toilet paper. It is thin, transparent, slick as wax paper and completely befuddles a user of world-wide experience. Proper usage of such paper has to be encoded in ones DNA and local children intuitively have success. Such success for visitors is difficult and close attention and industry is required.

It is just one more mystery of foreign cultural habits and I hope their bathroom products never make it to the west coast.


Byron and Beatriz

For local, up-to-the-minute coverage of Hurricane Sandy, visit www.patch.com for affiliate sites on the east coast.

To make a donation and help support American Red Cross Disaster Relief, visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767). You can also text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross Chapters.

For more information on how you can help, visit

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