‘Walking through the water was like walking through peanut butter’
Secaucus helps Katy, Texas residents after Hurricane Harvey
by Hannington Dia
Reporter Staff Writer
Sep 10, 2017 | 2387 views | 0 0 comments | 91 91 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HARVEY
An example of the damage Harvey has left behind in Texas.
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Secaucus, unlike nearby municipalities, will not be helping Houston after Hurricane Harvey’s destruction. Instead, the town is working to help Katy, a nearby Texas city that suffered mass damage from Harvey, but hasn’t received as much media coverage.

This comes after a former 30+ year resident (who requested anonymity) sent email updates to family members as rain began flooding her home Aug. 28. One of those family members is a Secaucus employee, who sent the message to Lisa Snedeker, co-founder for the Secaucus Emergency Fund.

From there, the town began looking into options to help.

“She just moved into her house in March,” Snedeker said. “It’s brand new. They told her to stay there. It got to the point where she couldn’t stay there and had to be rescued. It’s her, her husband, and an autistic, 5-year-old son.”

A follow-up email from the woman’s relative confirmed that the “family has been rescued and moved from their home by a member of the local Fire Department. They are currently safe, on dry land, and out of the heavy flooding area.”

But according to Snedeker, their rescue wasn’t easy. “They brought her out,” she said. “She said walking through the water was like walking through peanut butter. Her house was up 18 to 24 inches in water. Her clothing and stuff, she moved to higher ground, on top of her bed, and important paperwork and stuff like that.”

Harvey has killed at least 50 people, early reports say. It is also the costliest natural disaster in American history, at $190 billion and counting, per estimates from AccuWeather.

Similarities

While keeping contact with the woman and the family, the town soon realized its commonalities with Katy.

Both municipalities have fewer than 20,000 residents. “We have the same things,” Snedeker said. “We both have a senior center, and we found that would be a good partnership to form. We’ve called; we’ve been in contact with people from Katy.”

“I went on their website today and I read their history,” added Town Administrator Gary Jeffas. “It’s like Secaucus: a small town, outside of a suburb.”

The town has struck an agreement with a company called Apex Trucking to bring items to Katy using one of their trucks, at no cost.

The company’s owner is also lending the town his employees for the two-day trip. Snedeker said she will be accompanying them on the journey, set for either Sep. 10. or 11. The town is working to let Secaucus residents track the truck via GPS on the town’s website, http://secaucusnj.gov/.

Past efforts

Helping cities in need is second-nature to Secaucus, officials said. After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, “We raised $36, 000,” Snedeker said.

“We raised $12,000 for the Clinton Foundation in the past,” Mayor Michael Gonnelli added. Founded by former President Bill Clinton, the foundation operates charitable programs internationally.

Jeffas said, “Secaucus responds to big things like this, but everyday Secaucus responds to needs. We’re sending food to Union City; we’re sending food to food banks; we’re sending clothes; it’s a constant thing.”

Secaucus is not working with its neighboring towns for donations.

“We do this on our own,” Gonnelli said. “I think we do better when we’re doing it alone.”

Various other nearby towns are engaged in relief efforts for hurricane-ravaged cities.

How you can help

The town plans to ask seniors at the senior center to write cards for Harvey victims. Snedeker also sent an email to Interim Superintendent of Schools Kenneth Knops, asking if students can take a half hour after returning to school this week to write cards for children in Katy.

“These people are living in schools, on top of tables,” Snedeker said. “It is that bad.”

Local staff are mailing flyers to town businesses, asking them to support relief efforts. “We’re hopeful we’ll get a really nice response,” Jeffas said.

People to People International, the Indian Caucus, and the KNS Social and Athletic Club are some local organizations that have pledged donations to town’s efforts so far. The St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church also just donated a check to the Secaucus Emergency Fund, Snedeker said.

The Emergency Fund is accepting non-perishable donations at its municipal buildings, including Town Hall and the Social Services Office at 101 Centre Ave.

Accepted items include toothbrushes, bottled water, new socks, shampoo, toilet paper, t-shirts, and soap. Those who prefer monetary donations can make a check payable to the Secaucus Emergency Fund. Residents can either mail their checks or drop them off at the Senior Center, at 101 Centre Ave.

For more information on how you can help, contact Lisa at (201) 921-7678.

Hurricane Irma

Even though Harvey has come and gone, Hurricane Irma is close behind. Irma is approaching North America as a Category 5 hurricane, making it “extremely dangerous.” Already, it is said to be the strongest Atlantic Ocean hurricane ever recorded.

In the eastern Caribbean, the islands of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic were battered by Hurricane Irma on Wednesday and Thursday. Current projections predict Irma will make landfall in Florida over the weekend with the potential to track northward and affect the entire state.

Check hudsonreporter.com for local updates.

Hannington Dia can be reached at hd@hudsonreporter.com

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