Despite the unprecedented destruction caused to the 165-year-old Sandy Hook Coast Guard Base brought on by Hurricane Sandy in October, there are no plans to close or relocate the fully operational base, even though it is still recovering from the damage caused by the storm.
“The base was able to perform all Coast Guard operations within five days of the storm’s passage,” U.S. Coast Guard Sector New York spokesman Charles W. Rowe said. “ … The recovery is ongoing.”
While the overall cost has not yet been fully calculated, the Coast Guard estimates it will cost about $30 million to restore all bases in Sector New York.
“All buildings in Sandy Hook were damaged to some extent and the Coast Guard is in the process of determining what will be repaired, demolished, and/or replaced,” Rowe said. “No vessels were lost or damaged. However, there was considerable loss of smaller items of equipment.”
The buildings included homes of some Coast Guardsmen. While families were displaced, none had to be separated at any time, Rowe said.
No Coast Guardsmen were hurt during the storm, either, as the base was fully evacuated. A group of four volunteers took a boat up the Hudson River and remained there throughout the course of the storm to aid anyone who may have needed help. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.
“We stayed until the last minute,” said, Second Class Petty Officer David Snyder, who led the crew. “The whole crew was a volunteer crew and we were more than happy to do it.”
Snyder has been in the Coast Guard over 11 years, and said he never saw anything like Sandy.
“It was different. We didn’t know what damage was going to be sustained,” Snyder said. “The difficult thing was knowing your friends and co-workers were staying on land.”
Following the storm, the Coast Guard received additional help in rescue operations.
“All the Coast Guard, Navy and law enforcement response was phenomenal,” Snyder said. “Without them, things would’ve been a lot worse.”
In the days following Sandy, about 70 Navy personnel helped the Coast Guard pull debris out of the water.
“They helped us get back to a livable situation,” Snyder said. “They helped with all the little things to help us get back up and running.”
“We’ve seen improvements by leaps and bounds,” Sandy Hook Firefighter Whitley Noel said. “We’ve had to adopt to new fueling procedures quickly because we’ve had to remain operational and help people.”
Snyder, Noel, and Firefighter Elizabeth Ansley were all lucky to escape with no damage done to their apartments. Not every member of the Coast Guard Base at Sandy Hook was as lucky, but they all had plenty of help recovering.
“We all came together and helped each other,” Noel said. “Some members had substantial flooding.”
Ansley has been in the Coast Guard about a year and a half.
“This is definitely more than I was expecting,” he said. “I had no expectations of anything like this coming in.”
While recognizing it was a tragedy, Ansley is proud of the way the base has recovered in the nearly seven months since the storm.
The base was established in 1848, and is one of the world’s most famous life-saving stations. It never experienced anything like Sandy, and it remains standing.
“Our recovery is phenomenal and it says a lot about the base and the people that we were up and fully functional three days after the storm,” Ansley said. “It’s nice to be able to be part of a group of people that was able to recover so quickly.”