Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

Author: Caryn Radick, New Jersey Caucus Representative

Although it’s been cold in New Jersey this winter, we haven’t had too many “weather events” and certainly none to rival October’s Superstorm/Hurricane Sandy.∗
At our MARAC Steering Committee meeting in Baltimore on February 1, I shared some of my experiences of Sandy and its aftermath (I was relatively lucky—only losing power for sixteen hours). I also spoke about how MARAC members have worked to assist repositories damaged in the storm.
Like many other people who attended the fall conference, I left Richmond feeling a little uneasy about the hurricane predictions. As the previous week had gone on, the forecasts became more dire having started at “it won’t affect us” and then “perhaps it might…” and finally, “be warned and be prepared.”
But, Sandy was truly unprecedented, and the days afterward were also difficult. Initially, there were still limitations in who had power (and therefore, access to the Internet) and many roads were closed (and even if they weren’t, drivers—and generator owners—were waiting in line for hours to get gas).
But things gradually began to settle, and in the weeks following Sandy, a number of people contacted me as New Jersey Caucus Representative asking what they could do to help or giving an update on how a repository had fared. MARAC was quick to respond with blog posts e-mails with offers of assistance and reminders that there were disaster funds available.
As it turned out, both trying to get information about who might need help and working to get them help have been a challenge, but the history and cultural heritage communities have made tremendous efforts to see that resources get to the right places. The work and efforts are ongoing.
In the months, and probably years to come, we’ll be talking about Sandy, its impact, and lessons learned. I and some of my fellow MARAC “responders” have already been asked to share our experiences in panel discussions. I know we’ll all have a lot to say about what Sandy taught us.
∗As I was drafting this, I learned that a possible monster snowstorm may hit the east coast this weekend. Spoke too soon.
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