As a resident of St. Charles Parish for two decades, Brent Madere was able to dodge his share of hurricanes. But when he moved to New Jersey two months ago, his luck ran out.
Madere, who served as advertising director for the St. Charles Herald-Guide for 15 years, now lives in Manahawkin, N.J., which was directly in the crosshairs of Hurricane Sandy. The home that he shares with his girlfriend, Cindy Abbruzzese, was flooded by a foot of water and sewage, causing about $70,000 in damage.
It will be up to a year before the two can get back into the home.
"Iíve been through a lot of hurricanes and they are never fun, but this is the absolute worst," Madere said. "We are going to be displaced out of our home and have to scramble for a place to live. It is definitely the most devastating storm Iíve ever been through."
Madere and Abbruzzese evacuated from their home near the New Jersey coast and returned a day after Sandy made landfall. While a lot of homes in the area suffered only minor damage, Madereís home took the brunt of a tidal wave.
"What happened is that the neighborhood that we live in has lagoons on both sides of our house. A tidal wave came up and both lagoons met on our street," Madere said. "The back end of the street was higher and had a drain so those homes had no damage. In the front of our street where we live all the homes got flooded."
The foot of floodwater that entered Madereís home mixed with sewage, so Madere said the two had to get rid of all possessions that were touched by water.
"We had to get rid of two bedrooms, dressers, sofas, our furnaceÖit was terrible," Madere said. "Right now we are working with the flood insurance company, homeowners insurance and FEMA. We are hoping to get a FEMA trailer to stay in nearby."
Though Madereís home had flood damage, he said that the area had power and gas after the storm.
"A little north of us they are going through what St. Charles Parish went through in Katrina where we didnít have power and they are rationing gas," Madere said. "But a lot of the people that live in Manahawkin are vacationers or retired so a lot of them didnít have flood insurance."
Because Madere is from Louisiana, he said he caught a lot of flack from people in the area who claimed he had brought the hurricane with him.
"You got to laugh about it. All the neighbors and Cindyís friends told me I should have kept the hurricane in Louisiana," he said.
But Madereís hurricane experience did prove beneficial for his girlfriend.
"Iím glad I was here because my girlfriend was overwhelmed," Madere said. "I am used to going through hurricanes so I was able to help her learn how to deal with FEMA and the insurance companies."
Even though the flooding was terrible, Madere said the worst thing about the storm was that he only had one pair of shoes, which quickly became infused with sewage.
"I had to put them on everyday to clean the house and then take them off when I left," he said. "They were already terrible shoes, but now they are covered in sewage. Iím happy because today I am going to the shelter to get a new pair."
So far, nearly 200 people have died due to Hurricane Sandy, which spent 32 hours over land and dumped 12 inches of water. The storm made landfall in New Jersey with 80 mile-per-hour winds.
The storm has caused about $20 billion in property damage so far and has displaced at least 100,000 people.