Hit Hard By Irene, Families Anxious Over Hurricane Sandy's Fury

PHOTO: Salus children

New York area families who were slammed by last year's Hurricane Irene are girding for a storm that promises to hit even harder. Still hours away from the worst of Hurricane Sandy, those who are in its path are in a state of high anxiety, holding their collective breath.

Kelly Salus, a 42-year-old mother of four from suburban New Jersey, has barely recovered from the hurricane last August, which left seven feet of water in her house. She and her husband were taken to dry land by boat.

It was there at the Pompton Lakes fire house Sunday where Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency and ordered evacuations of the state's barrier islands and Atlantic City casinos.

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The governor has predicted that residents could be out of power for up to a week after Sandy, now a category 2 hurricane, hits land later tonight.

The town's residents were asked to voluntarily evacuate because of power lines so close to houses, but Salus said, "I don't know where we would go with no family close by."

The special needs teacher and her four children, aged 4 to 17, are homebound today with all schools closed in New Jersey.

Last year, she and her husband, who is in pharmaceutical sales, had no flood insurance because they don't live in a flood zone. They got help from FEMA, but were out of pocket more than $25,000 when flood waters filled their house, destroying the furnace, washer and dryer and most of their finished basement.

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While cleaning out the basement in preparation for Hurricane Irene, Salus reached for a cast-iron roasting pan that landed on her head, breaking her nose and giving her a concussion.

"It was on a top shelf and I reached for it and it fell on me and knocked me out," she said. "I had two black eyes and I was starting a new job – I looked like mess, like someone had beat me up."

While coastal residents are more worried about the tidal surge, Salus said the rain and wind is her concern.

"I am hopeful if there is less than 10 inches of rain," she said. "Now we have insurance and a drain system and sump pumps...we should be able to handle it."

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"We are as prepared as we can be," Salus said. "The winds can be a tad scary and downed power lines. But we saw the worst 15 months ago. We can handle it."

Lisa Palmer of Glastonbury, Conn., looks at old photos of the Hurricane of 1938 as she waits anxiously for another historic storm, Hurricane Sandy, to move up the coast.

"It's a little unsettling," said Palmer, 62, and a retired landscaper. "The Main Street was completely flooded. Stores had water up to the second-floor windows. People were polling in rowboats. We don't have a rowboat."

Palmer's home is on the Connecticut River flood plain, so she likely won't be inundated, but the town's sewage treatment plant could flood, as it did last year during Hurricane Irene, leaving them without water.

She has six prize goats, two of them milking. Hurricane-force wind gusts could also hamper getting buckets of water to the barn. "Livestock need fresh water all the time and those who are milking need more than ever," said Palmer.

"I have to get milk to the barn once a day and I am not sure I can tie a rope around my waist to get there," said Palmer. "I don't know how bad the gusts of winds are going to be. I am afraid to get out of the house."

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