One week ago today, millions of Americans from North Carolina to Maine braced for Hurricane Sandy. That evening for over 12 hours, hurricane and tropical storm force winds, storm surge, and flooding impacted 12 states, with over eight million people losing power. Transportation systems in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and Washington, DC came to a halt, and more than 12,000 commercial flights were grounded. And for the first time since 1888, the New York Stock Exchange was closed for two consecutive days because of a natural disaster.
Days before the storm stuck, at the direction of President Obama, the entire federal government was mobilizing to support the anticipated state and local response to the storm. The President declared an emergency in over a dozen states, and resources and commodities like food, water and blankets were pre-positioned. FEMA staff was deployed to work side-by-side with their state and local counterparts to ensure coordination in response to the impacts of the storm, and urban search and rescue teams were deployed to prepare to support state and local efforts. First responders up and down the east coast knocked on doors to urge those in danger to get out of harm’s way.
Before the tropical storm force winds stopped blowing on Tuesday, President Obama had declared a major disaster declaration for the states of New York and New Jersey, immediately making federal financial assistance available to individuals in the impacted regions. As of this afternoon, over 230,000 individuals in the impacted areas have registered for financial assistance, and over $210 million has been provided to survivors.
We know that the human and economic toll of Hurricane Sandy will be severe and long-lasting. More than 100 people lost their lives and were victims of this storm - they will not be forgotten. In addition, there were billions in losses to small businesses and personal property. But out of this tragedy, there are stories of survivors pulling together, neighbors helping neighbors, and communities beginning to rebuild.
We know that there are many challenges ahead and that recovery will not happen overnight. Many survivors remain without power, and many are finding themselves without shelter. FEMA will remain in support of our state, tribal and local partners, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even as television cameras turn to other stories, we will be on the ground to support the survivors.
If you are a survivor, it’s important to take that the first step is to register with FEMA, by calling 1-800-621-FEMA or going online to www.disasterassistance.gov on your computer or mobile device.
As we have seen in the past few days, a disaster can happen to any of us, but by working together as one team, we can recover and we can rebuild.