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A decade after Superstorm Sandy, one resident recalls costs to Connecticut's coast

Mehdi Taamallah / AFP
People are evacuated from a neighborhood in Little Ferry, New Jersey, on Oct. 30, 2012, one day after Superstorm Sandy slammed the East Coast. Officials in the states of Connecticut, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia all reported deaths from the massive storm system, while Toronto police said a Canadian woman was killed by flying debris.

It was 10 years ago that Superstorm Sandy flooded sections of Connecticut shoreline towns from Greenwich to New London. Residents have rebuilt but not without expense.

Dick Dmochowski told Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live that he saw his Fairfield house flood in real time.

“Me being a stubborn New Englander, I did not evacuate because how bad could it be?” Dmochowski said Thursday. “We’re not on the water, so it’s not going to be bad. Then, 8 o’clock at night, I look out and I said to my wife, ‘Uh-oh. The water is coming up the driveway.’”

When Sandy hit the northeastern U.S. coastline on Oct. 29, 2012, the storm did not discriminate as it caused about $65 billion in damage — much of it in New York and New Jersey. Luxurious vacation homes on the Jersey Shore were torn apart; small homes in working-class sections of Staten Island were submerged up to their eaves.

The shoreline of Connecticut was hard-hit, too.

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath, Norwalk, Connecticut
Tim Clayton
Corbis News / Getty
A tree blown over during Superstorm Sandy fell onto a vehicle and brought down power lines on Comstock Hill Avenue, in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Oct. 30, 2012.

A 2013 report from the National Hurricane Center estimated that Sandy harmed 3,000 homes, with damage hovering around $360 million.

Dmochowski said he spent his savings and flood insurance money rebuilding his house and elevating it against future floods at a price tag of more than $200,000. After state and federal reimbursements, he said he still spent $70,000 of his own money on repairs.

But his neighbors on fixed incomes didn’t have that kind of money. Since then, he said, many of their small cape houses have been sold to developers of expensive homes.

The Connecticut Institute for Resilience and Climate Adaptation was created after Superstorm Sandy. Executive Director James O’Donnell said flooding will continue to be an issue for shoreline residents like Dmochowski as sea levels rise and climate change makes the region warmer and wetter.

“Devastating hurricanes and things like Sandy are going to continue to flood a lot of these towns and there’s going to be damage, but there’ll be more frequent, less damaging floods, as well,” O’Donnell said.

Even if new action is taken to limit carbon emissions, O’Donnell said other mitigations have to be taken to shore up towns in low-lying areas like Branford.

He said those parts of Connecticut will be affected most by future sea level rise.

Aerial Views Of Hurricane Sandy Clean Up Along The Jersey Shore
Debra L Rothenberg
Getty Images
Aerial views of a house that was moved off its foundation and sits in the middle of the bay near Mantaloking, New Jersey, seven weeks after Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore on Oct. 29. Sandy caused extensive damage to parts of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

This story contains information from the Associated Press. Connecticut Public Radio’s Tess Terrible and Lucy Nalpathanchil contributed to this report.

Cassandra Basler is a radio reporter and editor at Connecticut Public. She has covered juvenile justice, the opioid crisis, immigration, social justice and inequity. You can find her reporting in New Haven and Fairfield counties. She previously worked at WSHU Public Radio and her work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Here & Now.