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Southern California can learn from devastation left by Sandy

November 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
As I witnessed the devastation left by Superstorm Sandy in New York last week, I couldn't help but worry about what's in store for Los Angeles when it's our turn to face off against Mother Nature, be it wildfires, mudslides or earthquakes.

In the wake of Sandy, some of the most heart-wrenching scenes came from the coastline. Homes were reduced to piles of rubble by a massive storm surge.

Cheryl McClenin said her family was able to evacuate safely from their home on Staten Island. She returned to find an empty shell.

"Five feet of water. Everything that was down there is just gone. Furniture, floors, walls. Everything possible," she said, "It's gut wrenching. I grew up here my whole life."

Antony Marotto said he will never forget the night that Sandy came ashore.

"This is like nothing you've ever seen, my worst nightmare," he said. "Scariest movie you've ever seen, times 10."

In Long Island, Sandy's powerful wind gusts sent hundreds of trees into power lines. It reminded me of the huge wind storm that hit our area last December. That was when more than 300,000 people were left without power when hundreds of trees toppled in Pasadena, Arcadia and other neighborhoods.

In Brooklyn, resident Eze Amakwe was able to borrow a generator, but he had no fuel, so he tried - unsuccessfully - to siphon gas from his flooded car. He said he hoped to use the generator to boil water for a hot bath.

Residents of a neighborhood known as Canarsie said they were never told to evacuate, so they were caught off guard by the storm surge from nearby Jamaica Bay.

"When that water came down, it came down rushing so fast we had women running down the street half-clothed carrying babies, screaming," said one witness.

In a city overwhelmed with need, residents felt abandoned.

"Nobody cares," said one woman. "It's like we don't exist."

Even several days after Sandy had come and gone, the aftermath was still intense. From New Jersey to Midtown Manhattan, gas was in short supply.

In Southern California, the elephant in the room is literally under our feet. Scientists say we are long overdue for a massive earthquake. They say it's not a matter of if, but when.

Preparation can make all the difference. Sandy should remind all of us to prepare an earthquake kit. At the very least, experts recommend residents to keep a three-day supply of canned food and bottled water. The kit should also include a radio, flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit, blankets, extra clothing and tools. If you can afford it, try to keep your vehicle from running low on gas.

When disaster strikes, the damage won't discriminate. What happened back East teaches us that those who are prepared will be one step closer to recovery.

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