At the six-month mark, superstorm Sandy dominates the news cycle
Superstorm Sandy got a second wind in the news cycle today as the coastal areas devastated by the storm continue to grapple with recovery efforts six months after the historic event.
Sandy was one of the top stories on TV newscasts and front pages today, marking a somber anniversary.
"We can't forget about so many people still hurting," said Joe Scarborough, standing with his "Morning Joe" co-host Mika Brzezinski on this cold and drizzly Monday morning on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, N.J. "Please remember, six months later, so many people still suffering."
The storm killed more than 40 people in New York and more than 30 in New Jersey while causing nearly $50 billion in combined damage to both states, according to official estimates. Six months later, it's still big news.
Once vibrant beach resorts like the Rockaways, where hundreds of homes were destroyed by a flood-induced six-alarm fire, and Seaside Heights, N.J., where a storm-tossed rollercoaster now sits in the shallows of the Atlantic Ocean, are scrambling to rebuild in the hopes that summer tourism can provide a much-needed jolt to their local economies.
While Scarborough and Brzezinski anchored today's "Morning Joe" Sandy special from Asbury Park, correspondents filed live reports depicting the residual devastation in both towns.
"Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist interviewed New York Congressmen Peter King and Gregory Meeks on a battered beach in Belle Harbor.
"This is a very resilient group of people, but they are also a little frustrated," said Geist. "It's been six months now. They don't quite know where they stand in terms of getting relief financially. What can you say to them this morning?"
Geist also filed a segment during the prime hours of "Today," where he co-hosts the later 9 a.m. slot.
"Matt, I know you spent a lot of time out here [on the Rockaways] in the days afterward," he said, speaking to "Today" co-host Matt Lauer. "Unfortunately it looks the same, for the most part."
The local affiliates also cued up special Sandy coverage.
WPIX was on-scene in Staten Island, where many residents whose homes were destroyed have opted to enroll in a government buyout program instead of rebuilding, while anchors for CBS New York described "mind boggling damage" and "shredded boardwalks."
"Today, these scars: still visible," said Mary Calvi, co-host of "News This Morning," introducing a segment reporting that 67 percent of residents in the hardest hit areas are fully recovered while 1 in 7 are "far from recovery."
Among them is Patricia Dresch, whose story became one of the most heart-wrenching tales to emerge in the wake of the storm. She and her husband decided to hunker down in their Staten Island home because it had been robbed amid their evacuation during Hurricane Irene the previous year. The decision cost Dresch's husband and the couple's 13-year-old daughter their lives as they were washed away in the flood waters.
"All of a sudden the walls just gave out and out we went out in my yard," Dresch recalled during an emotional interview on CNN this morning. "And as we went out, she was on my arm, he was behind us. And a piece of the roof came and hit us in the head and we both went under. And I knew I lost her immediately. She was gone."
Sandy was a fixture on the front pages of newspapers throughout New York and New Jersey today as well.
The cover of today's Staten Island Advance introduced a week-long series presenting "snapshots of Staten Islanders who represent where we are today," beginning with a profile of a Midland Beach storm victim turned volunteer.
"6 mos. after Sandy, ghost town Breezy Point is... STILL HELL," proclaims the wood of today's Daily News, which features an aerial photo of empty lots where houses once stood in the tony Rockaways community. An accompanying story by columnist Pete Hamill is filled with testimonies from the affected residents.
"Where’s Quinn, Cuomo and Bloomberg six months later? I think everyone has forgotten and moved on,” said one of them.
Over in New Jersey, the race to get the shore cleaned up in time for Memorial Day was the focus of several of the state's most prominent dailies, including The Record ("Pressure building at Shore"); the Herald News ("Crews making headway, but it may not be enough"); and The Asbury Park Press ("WILL YOUR TOWN BE READY?").
"Sandy did what other storms did not: It cracked the protective shell of the Shore and erased notions of insularity," wrote Asbury Park Press journalist Dustin Racioppi in a feature that was part of the paper's special report today. "It dismantled childhood fixtures and menaced communities by flooding homes, peeling off roofs and washing away the businesses that held the pulse of their neighborhood. ... In a night, it reshaped the Jersey Shore for good."