One Year After Sandy

Carol Navratil points to the roof of her family room that had to be replaced when a neighbor's tree fell on it.
Carol Navratil points to the roof of her family room that had to be replaced when a neighbor’s tree fell on it.

Carol and John Navratil of Flower Hill were on a trip to Barcelona when the storm hit. Their adult daughter, Katherine, was living at home at the time. 

“Katherine called before the storm and she thought she was going to stay at home,” her mother recalled. “Her friends offered to pick her up but she said, ‘No. I’m just going to hunker down in the basement.’”

“I’ll be fine,” she assured her parents. But as the storm began and intensified, their daughter called a neighbor for help, telling her that she was frightened. Lisa Healey, who used to babysit for Katherine when she was little, told her husband, John, about the call.

“At that point there were trees down all the over the property,” Katherine’s mother said. “Lisa’s husband came over, climbed over several fallen trees and grabbed Katherine from the front door and carried her back to his house. I’ll be forever grateful, because he put his life on the line for her.”

Katherine’s parents were forced to remain in Spain for a few extra days as getting a flight to New York during the storm was impossible. “It was stressful,” Carol said. “We were able to see what was going on as we could watch CNN and Fox News from our hotel. It was frustrating.”

When the Navratils finally came home it was too dark to see anything. The cab driver, using his cell phone flashlight app, helped them navigate through the debris and get to the front door. “When we went outside the next day we were shocked when we saw what happened to our Norwegian Pine in the back that was laying all along the side of the house,” she recalled. “Another tree fell onto the pool and damaged that. The neighbor’s tree had fallen onto the roof of our family room. Another tree from a neighbor fell on our fence and another fell on the master bedroom roof and put a hole in that.

“But bless this house,” she added. “It’s such a sturdy house. None of the trees got into the rooms. There were no leaks.” A lot of the damage to the house (slate roof repairs, pool repair, gutter repair, fence replacement) was covered by insurance, but not the costs of removing the trees and fallen debris. Flower Hill and FEMA crews helped out with clearance, but it still cost the Navratils almost $5,000.

The family was appreciative of the help they received from their insurance company. “In all the chaos, my daughter had the presence of mind to call the agency and tell them that her parents were away and that there was a lot of damage on the property,” Carol said. “The agent came here herself and started our claims process before we even returned from Europe.”

But reflecting on the damage, cleanup and subsequent repairs to their property, which has been in their family since 1948, Carol said, “We were so lucky. Some of our neighbors had major situations with their houses and had to move out.
“After you see what Sandy made people go through — people losing their homes, losing all their memorabilia, their photographs of family — none of that happened to us,” she continued. “I realize that we were so very, very lucky. If it happened to our house again, and I hope it never happens again to anybody, we’d just deal with it.”

The one change they made to their home, in consideration of future serious weather events, was to install a built-in generator that runs on natural gas. “We had been talking about getting one for awhile,” she said. “It was a big expense and we do lose our electricity a lot.” The Navratils had no heat for over two weeks, as their boiler could not be powered. They did have hot water though.