Sandy victims helped through FEMA Corp by Pittsfield man

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Sunday November 18, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- The line of people is long, stretching out the door of the Disaster Recovery Center and far down the street, but 24-year-old Shane Snyder isn’t worried.

He’s confident that he and his team of nine FEMA Corps members, working 12-hour days, will meet with each victim of Hurricane Sandy in Long Beach, N.Y., and explain what type of help is available to them.

Snyder, who grew up in Pittsfield and graduated from St. Joseph Central High School in 2006, said more than 1,200 people have registered for federal assistance after the massive storm winds destroyed thousands of homes and businesses in Nassau County.

When he and his team arrived from West Virginia three days after the storm hit, he said the area was still in disarray.

"Driving down the main street in Long Beach, debris was everywhere and there was huge piles of sand," Snyder said during a phone interview Thurs day. "Since we’ve arrived the Dis aster Recovery Cen ter has been swamped with applicants and the reception area has been filled non-stop."

Speaking with the applicants hasn’t been easy, he said.

"A lot of people have been displaced and had to be relocated to shelters or had to stay with family members," Snyder said. "Before power was restored this week, most felt helpless. With no heat and no electricity, the storm last week was even harder for most."

About a week after Sandy hit coastal New York and New Jersey, a nor’easter complicated many of the recovery efforts and left a large swath of the East Coast further battered by wet snow.

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This week the majority of power was restored to Nassau County. Most of the debris is cleared, along with the sand dunes created by the storm, and many people are returning to the area to asses the damage to their homes and cleanup what the storm left in its wake. But one group of people may have been the hardest, Snyder said.

"There’s a lot of tough stories," he said. "Renters have lost everything and many didn’t have insurance so we’re trying to speed up the process if we can."

FEMA Corps, a partnership between FEMA and Ameri Corps, was established in 2011 following a record breaking year of federally declared disasters, including Tropical Storm Irene.

The 10-month program, educates and dispatches people age 18-to-24 to help respond to disasters and recovery scenes.

Prior to arriving in New York, Snyder and his team were stationed in West Virginia helping a few dozen victims of a June wind storm.

Seeing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and the immediate need of thousands was a stark contrast, he said.

Although there is still plenty of work left to be completed, Snyder is confident it will get done and people will be able to rebuild what was lost.

"Stores are re-opening, trash people removed from their homes and put out on the street has been cleaned up. You can really start to see the recovery," he said.

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