When residents along the Eastern seaboard were being warned to get out of the way of hurricane Sandy, a Minot couple was headed into the eye of the storm.
Allen and Carol Becker, Red Cross volunteers, flew from Minot to Philadelphia Friday, Oct. 26, and then drove a rental car to New York. They arrived at their hotel just hours before hurricane Sandy slammed into the New Jersey and New York areas late Saturday night and early Sunday morning.
When the storm passed, the Beckers were in position to immediately offer helping hands. They were asked to lend assistance at Monmouth University in New Jersey where FEMA had hastily established an emergency shelter in a gymnasium.
Snow can be seen where it was blowing in under the wall of a FEMA tent in New York. The large tent was being used to house handicapped and elderly displaced by hurricane Sandy.
Allen and Carol Becker, Minot, are joined by a fellow Red Cross volunteer from South Dakota, right, in this photograph which also shows evidence of a snowstorm that followed in the wake of hurricane Sandy.
"There were 2,000 people in that gymnasium," said Carol Becker. "Most of them were just distraught. A lot of them were handicapped or elderly from an apartment building, wondering what would become of them. They weren't able to go back to their homes. They were so glad the Red Cross came in and helped them. The didn't know what they'd do."
The Beckers provided as much moral support as possible, calling upon working knowledge of similarities they encountered during Minot's 2011 flood. According to Carol Becker, a big difference between hurricane Sandy victims and those of the Minot flood was that many more elderly citizens were displaced by Sandy.
"They had it a lot worse," said Allen Becker. "There was a lot of downed trees and downed powerlines were everywhere."
Carol Becker said she enjoyed the opportunity to help, saying that many of the displaced just needed someone to talk to about their situation.
"Sometimes that's all they need. I may not be able to fix the problem but I'd listen to the story," said Carol Becker. "We had to make sure they were eating their meals."
Before the Beckers completed their two week stay, Monmouth University needed to reclaim use of their gymnasium. The victims being housed at that facility were transferred to large FEMA tents. A snowstorm hit the region about the same time. Dropping temperatures, wind and snow caused problems with the tents.
"The tents weren't anchored down," said Carol Becker. "The snow blew inside."
The Beckers said a FEMA tent village was a difficult transition for displaced elderly and handicapped. Victims had to leave their shelter tents to use portable bathrooms or access the food tent. To make things worse, said the Beckers, some of the victims seemed to have just been forgotten.
"The elderly and disabled couldn't go back home. The houses had lost power. Children came and picked some of them up," said Allen Becker.
Most though, were left behind, victims of a massive storm that pummelled the Northeast much harder than anticipated. Heavy winds were expected but the storm surge proved to be more than what most people thought possible. When the corrosive saltwater finally began to recede, it exposed a lot of ground covered with several feet of coastal sand. The devastation of property was evident. So too was the effect on the residents, something the Beckers knew could be equally devastating.
"We care about people. That's the reason we went," explained Carol Becker. "When they called they needed people. My husband was able to take two weeks off from work. That's the way Red Cross volunteers are."
The Beckers returned to Minot Nov. 8. An emergency response vehicle from Minot's Red Cross remains in the effected area.
"It looks like a really big ambulance," said Allan McGeough, Mid-Dakota Red Cross Chapter executive director. "It is a mobile feeding unit, going through neighborhoods offering food and assistance."
The Mid-Dakota Chapter was displaced from their Fourth Avenue Northwest offices during the flood of 2011. Today they have recovered and are nearly back to normal at that location.
"The work on the building is pretty much all done," said McGeough. "We're still functional and operational."
The Mid-Dakota Chapter housed a national Red Cross call center at the time of the 2011 flood. The equipment was unable to be moved and was severely damaged by flood water. McGeough says he doesn't believe Minot's call center will be revived.
"My thinking is no, we lost all the equipment. It would be quite an expense," said McGeough.