By Judy O’Gorman Alvarez
MIDDLETOWN – The road to getting back home can be a long one. Even though Judy and Rod Alberse were forced out of their home by Super Storm Sandy, they considered themselves fortunate to have not lost everything. Yet a year later, they are still out of their home.
When the Alberses moved to their house on Benton Avenue in the Leonardo section 13 years ago they were required to elevate their house 8 feet. “It was a stipulation for the mortgage to go through because we’re near the marina,” says Judy Alberse. Once the house was raised, “We thought we were safe (from flooding).”
But the elevation did not protect them from the surge that roared through their home last October. The whole bottom of their house, the aboveground basement, and all its contents – treasured photos and memorabilia, tools, pantry, workshop, and storage, as well as water, heating and electrical systems – were destroyed.
“Our whole area was devastated,” says Alberse of her neighborhood. She and her husband felt fortunate that most of the living area of their home was spared.
In the immediate weeks after the storm, the Alberses, who stayed with friends and then a nearby hotel until finally renting a condo in Keyport, started the process of rebuilding. What has followed is a year of frustration, phone calls, emails, red tape, dead ends, and hard work.
Rod Alberse, who suffers from diabetes and heart trouble, was unable to do much of the physical cleanup. They discovered that the various volunteer groups who descended on their neighborhood could only work on a house when the homeowner was present. When a group of AmeriCorps volunteers drove up one day while Judy Alberse and a friend were picking up debris, it was a godsend. “Five big burly guys showed up and within an hour or two they picked up all the garbage, logs, (pieces of) concrete,” she said. “They were like guardian angels.”
The Alberses joined the ranks of the hundreds of people displaced by Super Storm Sandy as they spent hours sorting through papers, waiting on hold, and dotting the i’s to all the newly imposed rules, to get their homes – and their lives – back in order.
New restriction required the house be elevated to 17 feet. (Afterwards, Alberse says, it turned out it needed to be raised only 14 feet.)
Alberse says they grew weary of dealing with insurers, FEMA, banks and trying to pay the electricians, plumbers and carpenters. “It was a struggle in every direction,” she says. “It really wore out my husband.
“Now all the plumbing is in, we have running water, we have telephone and cable,” says Alberse. “Once gas lines are put in, the hot water and heating systems will be put in,” she says, and the job can be finished so they can move back home. Unfortunately, the waiting game is not over as Alberse says the gas company has canceled their appointment twice. “It’s just frustrating.”
Despite all the progress they’ve made over the year, without a gas hookup they suspect they may be spending another Thanksgiving in a rented condo. “We are kind of up in the air,” she says. “In more the ways than one.”
According to Michael Kinney, spokesperson for New Jersey Natural Gas, crews will be at the Alberse home Nov. 5 to restore service. “Typically pre-Sandy service installations took four to six weeks” from the time an order is called in, he says. “We’ve been working as exponentially as we can for the volume of customers who need services to be restored as quickly as possible.” He says they are working to restore service for more than 7,000 customers. “We understand customers’ desire to get back to their homes,” Kinney says and NJNG is working as hard as possible to accommodate them.