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Family finds temporary home in Kingman after Hurricane Sandy

Louise Meliado enjoys some time with her two great-grandchildren, Kalie Rosenberg, 2, and Lily Rosenberg, 2 months, in the kitchen of her daughter’s house in Kingman.

KINGMAN - Louise Meliado can still remember the fury of Hurricane Sandy and the ensuing escape to Kingman like it was yesterday.

She and husband Alexander, both 88, were resting in their two-bedroom home a block from the beach in Highlands, N.J., when their grown daughter, Rosanne Rosenberg, called to ask if they were leaving.

Rosenberg and her family have lived in Kingman since 1993 and they were anxiously watching the growing storm on television as it moved up the Atlantic coastline from its origin in Jamaica.

"I called and said, 'You're leaving, right?' And my mother said, 'No, we're going to hang out a little longer because it's not so bad,' " said Rosenberg.

"I said, 'No, leave now.' We were all very concerned. When we saw the aftermath, it was really hard to comprehend it. Every family in Highlands had their entire life's worth on the curb. "

Hurricane Sandy ripped through the tiny fishing town on Oct. 29, demolishing more than 1,250 of the 1,500 homes along its shoreline. Water surged 12 feet high in some places, damaging buildings and boats and uprooting trees.

Though New Jersey and New York were hardest hit, the storm stretched 1,000 miles across, killing 159 people in 10 states and knocking out power to 8.5 million as it moved inland.

Damage has been estimated at $50 billion to $75 billion, making Sandy the second most costly storm in U.S. history, behind Katrina.

The storm came more quickly than Meliado thought, forcing the couple to leave the house with their two local daughters - Suzan Guiney and Louise Titus - and the clothes on their backs to find shelter in an inland hotel, where they stayed for two weeks without electricity.

Afterward, the daughters took their parents back to see the house they had lived in since 1978. Meliado was devastated.

Because Rosenberg had the only standing house - the two daughters lost theirs in the storm, too - she flew to New Jersey to bring her parents back to Kingman while their house is being repaired.

The Meliados have been here since Nov. 11 and are expecting to remain another three months until their house is habitable. Contractors have gutted the inside and boarded up the front while they clean up mold and remodel it.

"I was crying when I first saw the house," said Meliado. "I was very upset because I knew what had happened but I didn't realize how bad it would be.

"We've had bad storms before, but the water only came into the streets. This time, it went in the houses. Our walls and floors were there, but everything inside was damaged. I felt empty, like there was nothing left and my life had ended."

Meliado said she and Alexander have received money from insurance for repairs, as well as financial assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Legion.

Meliado said people in Kingman have encouraged her since the couple's arrival as she has struggled to live patiently in another place while waiting to return home.

"I was afraid this time when Sandy hit," said Meliado. "I thought it couldn't happen to us because we've been there so long, but it did.

"I'm not afraid to go to back. In fact, I'm looking forward to it. My family is there and my roots are there. I don't think about something like this happening again. We'll be fine there."

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