Jellyfish add note of levity to destruction of Sandy

FREEPORT, N.Y. — As if the destruction wrought by Hurricane Sandy weren’t already overwhelming in the storm’s wake, Leroy Morgan of Freeport found himself faced with another astonishing and wholly unexpected, phenomenon: jellyfish in his living room.

“It’s gotta be funny,” said Morgan, shaking his head as he showed a delegation of relief workers from the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the New York Annual (regional) Conference around his waterlogged home. “We were actually stepping on jellyfish!”

The nearly transparent, saucer-shaped and spineless sea creatures are the bane of bathers at Jones Beach, about six miles away, because of their stinging tentacles. They are the last thing Morgan imagined — or wanted — to see inside his home. But after he washed them away with a garden hose, they gave him a light moment in otherwise trying circumstances.

The jellyfish weren’t the only thing the storm surge washed onto his Long Island property. “We had a boulder from the sea sitting in front of the house,” Morgan said, and there was sewage in the shower stall. A few streets away, a cabin cruiser sat in the middle of the road, nowhere near the ocean.

Morgan had obeyed local government orders to evacuate his home ahead of the storm, and when he returned. he found his living room furniture floating in salty seawater, which others said also carried oil and other pollutants.

Like Morgan, Margaret Lowe faced the same toxic flooding of her home, also in the working-class south side of Freeport, where she has lived for 32 years. In all that time, the retired nurse, an immigrant from Jamaica, said she had never seen anything like Hurricane Sandy.

The massive storm squeezed into the very last days of the Atlantic hurricane season. It killed more than 110 people in the U.S. Northeast and 72 in the Caribbean. It left millions without power or gasoline, and many without a place to live.

As Lowe showed her pastor, the Rev. David Henry, and the United Methodist relief team around her home, she pointed out remnants of the storm: buckling wood floors, the box of wrinkled family photos she hoped to salvage, and a pool of water that remained in a dark crawl space in one of the bedrooms. “I don’t want to think what might be in that!” she said.

“Everything is wet,” she added as she opened the door to a linen closet where dank towels rested, seemingly exhausted by the ordeal. “I don’t even have a change of clothes to put on.”

Although electric power had been restored to the house the morning of the visit — 10 days after the storm — Lowe still held onto a blue flashlight, scotch-taped at the neck, as if unconvinced the power would stay.

On a kitchen table, her Bible lay open to the Gospel of Mark, and her hymn book hadn’t moved from its place on the piano.

“I pray,” Lowe said. “I know the Lord will get me through this.”

* Unger is a senior writer for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

You can help.

Your gift to Hurricanes 2012, UMCOR Advance #3021787, will support emergency response and long-term recovery for storm survivors. Cleaning buckets are in short supply. Learn more about how you can assemble and deliver them to any one of the depots in the UMCOR Relief Supply Network.

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