Having Witnessed Sandy, Its Survivors Offer Guidance for Texans

In 1989, she experienced a magnitude 6.9 earthquake in California. “Given a choice between an earthquake in California and a predicted flood, I would choose an earthquake any day,” she said. “Because the government knows what to do.”

Improvise wherever possible was a lesson Christina Pontolillo learned. She also lived in Sea Gate and had no power. One neighbor had a generator that he shared with her and others. To keep it running, the neighbor siphoned gas from ruined cars before they were hauled away.

The advice of some Sandy survivors is that you may have to entertain leaving. Exactly a year after Sandy struck, one family, of all things, moved onto a sailboat.

Melissa Julien lived with her parents in Rockaway Beach, Queens, having just graduated from college. Everything in their basement and garage was destroyed. Beforehand, she feared that experiencing the hurricane would be the worst of it. She found out that coping with the aftermath was far scarier.

She saw some of her family’s treasured possessions adrift in sewage water: her mother’s wedding dress, baby pictures. She found the sight “soul-crushing.” But she learned to dwell on the memories from those objects.

Less than two years later, the cost of repairs and other issues being overwhelming, she and her parents relocated to Lehigh Acres, Fla., Last year, though, Ms. Julien, 26, moved to Brooklyn.

She dealt with it by telling herself to stay positive. “Just visualizing the future, that’s the big thing,” she said. “It really surprises you because it brings out a strength that you didn’t know you had. I don’t think you ever get over it, but you get stronger from it. It definitely will get better.”

Enormous patience is what the Walsh family learned. Stacey Walsh and her husband and their two daughters found their bungalow flooded in Broad Channel, Queens. Nearly five years later, their house is still not rebuilt. The latest estimate is next August. “You have to be forceful with your insurance company,” Ms. Walsh said. “Don’t take the first offer. Hold your ground and stand tough. Keep every receipt to the dime.”

And then, obviously, wait. They rented in Brooklyn for a year, then moved out to Riverhead, N.Y., where Ms. Walsh’s parents lived. They rent a house there now. Their daughters have been in four schools and no longer look forward to returning to Broad Channel. “You have to remind them that things will get…

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