Conquering Sandy


Back of school near Mrs. Hayes’s house was most damaged after the storm. courtesy of Mrs. Hayes.

Back of school near Mrs. Hayes’s house was most damaged after the storm.
courtesy of Mrs. Hayes

The devastating winds of Hurricane Sandy caused severe damage to Convent of the Sacred Heart property but not to its morale. Sunday night, October 28, “Frankenstorm” struck the mid-Atlantic region, leaving homes without power, students without school and hundreds without jobs. Sacred Heart administration, faculty members, students and families helped each other in times of need.
According to The New York Times, the storm caused more than 100 deaths in the United States, including 41 in New York City, 23 in New Jersey and three in Connecticut. New Jersey suffered billions of dollars in property damage. Explosions and downed power lines initially left the lower part of Manhattan and 90 percent of Long Island in the dark.
At Sacred Heart, the front of school looked as though nothing happened.  The worst damage was actually in the back of school between the student dining room and the dirt path to the athletic fields. Bleachers were tossed into the center of the athletic fields and the centerpiece collapsed.
School staff immediately began repairing destruction from the storm.
“The men were like heroes,” Head of School, Mrs. Pamela Hayes said. “They were here at 6:00 the next morning and they were chainsawing the trees and the back driveway trying to get the roads open and passable.”
Receptionist, Mrs. Ellen Douglas said, “We are at home and they’re here working cleaning up the campus for us.”
There were widespread power outages that lasted for days. Sacred Heart was out of power until 3:00 pm Tuesday, November 6. Several students and faculty members are still without power. Others regained power Wednesday night. Students such as senior Taylor Ryan stayed at friends’ houses or hotels while without power.
Gas shortages were a problem across the tri-state area as families used large amounts of gas to power generators. In Stamford, Connecticut, a gas station imposed a 20 dollar maximum purchase. Junior Shannon Longworth said she and her parents took turns refilling the generator every two hours at night.
“We didn’t want the freezer to go off and it kept the heat going,” Shannon said.
Although some students had generators, finding wifi connection was difficult.
“Mrs. Boyer and I had to stay active online to both submit applications and communicate with seniors who were in the midst of applying,” Director of College Guidance, Mrs. Mary Sykes wrote. “Every day was a work day for us…even if we were not sitting in our offices.”
Many universities extended their early deadlines past November 1, while others accommodated students impacted by the hurricane.
Students planning to take the SAT November 3 were also hindered. Friday, November 2, The College Board sent notice that the SAT was rescheduled in test centers that lost power. The makeup date for most test centers is now Saturday, November 17.
Because of power-related inconveniences, Columbia University waived its subject test requirement for students who were registered to take subject tests for the first time in November and who were affected by the cancellations.
Sacred Heart’s open house previously scheduled for Saturday, November 3 was cancelled. In addition, Director of Athletics, Ms. Kelly Stone notified athletes Wednesday October 31 that because of game cancellations all junior varsity seasons were complete. Varsity field hockey and soccer still have senior day and end-of-season championship games. Varsity volleyball’s end-of-season participation is still to be decided.
Crew and cross country teams abruptly ended their seasons as the athletic office decided not to travel to end-of-season championships.  Crew missed three regattas because of the hurricane.
Unlike missing school for snowstorms, Upper School history teacher Mrs. Jura Mohen said that because so many were without power, it was challenging to continue class work during the break.
In the front of Mrs. Hayes cottage immediately after Sandy, Mr. Costa chainsawed trees and Mr. Allison gathered debris.
courtesy of Mrs. Hayes

“There was no way of knowing whether students had power,” she said.
Because of missed class time, most courses are behind in their curricula.
“[Teachers] all seemed to make it work and were being understanding about a lot of things especially in the first couple days back,” senior Erin Manning said.
In spite of all hardships, the school came together.
Volunteers started a “Heart to Heart” program several years ago for families to confidentially ask for help if in need. During the storm, the program offered to provide childcare, carpooling, a warm meal or clothing. Mrs. Collins emailed the school community asking for suggestions of short-term rentals to help families with water damage.
Mrs. Hayes reported that many families offered to assist those in need.
“You have to be very proud of the community and the people in it,” Mrs. Hayes said.
– Alison Brett, Photo Editor