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Millers Island Isabel Veterans Taking Different Approaches to Storm Prep

Edgemere residents are being smart and cautious but not "crazy" about prepping for Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy.

Tropical Storm Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy, again.

"Frankenstorm."

The Perfect Storm II.

One Dundalk Patch reader even recommended calling her "Werestorm," noting that the storm rolling in on a full moon close to Halloween would be more appropriately named after the werewolf than the monster cobbled together by a mad scientist.

"Learn your monsters," reader "Chad" wrote in the comments section of a Patch article about the hurricane.

But whatever you call the storm rolling up the east coast, one thing is for sure— coastal residents in Greater Dundalk have been there, done that, and they are reacting and preparing in a variety of ways.

This time nine years ago, many waterfront residents in the communities of Turner Station, Edgemere, Millers Island and Fort Howard were still cleaning up and clearing belongings out, about a month after Tropical Storm Isabel swept through the community in late September.

Houses were destroyed, lifetimes of belongings were lost and lives were turned upside down for upwards of a year (and longer) as homeowners fought flood insurers and struggled to rebuild.

But even residents who went through that life-altering experience have different approaches as they brace for Sandy.

Millers Island resident Georgia Melvin-Poling, who spent 13 months in a FEMA trailer after Isabel heavily damaged her waterfront home, is doing everything she can to be better prepared for Sandy.

"With Isabel, we were prepared for wind and rain," Melvin-Poling said. "We taped our windows, brought stuff in, and took the boat out of the water and put it along side of the house.

"But it was the storm surge that no one predicted that did us all in."

Taking the family boat out of the water was a bad move; the surge and resulting flooding swept her boat to Rocky Point. By the time someone tracked the registration number and contacted her at her Dundalk grocery store, the boat had been stripped.

"The shell of the boat is still sitting in our yard," she said.

Her Hinton Avenue house was flooded with four feet of water from the Isabel surge.

It took slightly more than a year to rebuild, thanks to "fighting with the flood insurance company — that was the main problem," Melvin-Poling said.

Nearly $160,000 and 13 months later, a renovated home stood 15 feet higher off the ground and the family was finally able to abandon trailer life and go back home.

With those memories made more vivid by the threat of Sandy, the Polings are leaving nothing to chance with Sandy.

By Friday, Melvin-Poling had done her grocery store run, bought gas, stocked up on batteries and had tested the generator.

On Saturday, she rented a truck and moved out expensive appliances like a refrigerator, stove and pellet stove for safe keeping on higher ground.

"My husband works for BGE so he won't be around much," Melvin-Poling said. "For now, I plan to stay here, but I'll take that as it comes.

Across the street on the non-waterfront side of Hinton, Nancy Leshko Short was taking a more relaxed approach to Sandy.

Short lost cars, the contents of a shed and other belongings to Isabel in 2003, but thanks to having a home that already stood six feet off the ground, her living space didn't sustain too much damage.

When Short went to bed the night Isabel hit, everything was fine. She woke up in the middle of the night to find her cars already completely under water.

"I told my husband he needed to get out of bed," she said, able to laugh nine years later.

After hearing stories about local looting, she decided to stay in her home and protect her belongings, despite having no power.

Neighbors worked together, held cookouts so thawing food didn't go to waste and helped each other begin the cleaning up process.

"It was kinda a bonding experience, to tell the truth," she said. "It really brought us much closer as neighbors."

While she won't be foolish and ignore warnings about Sandy, Short said she's going to wait until more is known before she decides if she will do something as drastic as evacuate her home.

"If it's just winds or tides, I'm not worried," she said. "If a surge is predicted to push water up the Chesapeake, then I'll worry.

Unfortunately, weather experts are expecting damage from storm surges to be significant.

The National Hurricane Center has issued an advisory that warns of Hurricane Sandy causing "life-threatening" storm surge flooding along the Mid-Atlantic coast.

The combination of giant waves caused by the storm and "full moon-powered" high tides, will result in drenching rains and trigger inland flooding as Hurricane Sandy "merges with a winter storm that will worsen it and hold it in place for days," according to a report from CBS News.

In Dundalk, residents are being smart without being alarmists, many said.

At Anchor Bay East Marina on Cove Road, workers were kept busy lifting boats out of the water and anchoring them on dry land late in the week, according to owner Art Cox.

On Sunday afternoon, Bay Shore Bar and Grill owner George Kotroso was preparing to go take care of his boat.

"I got a call from my marina, suggesting that I come down and double up on the lines on my boat, so I'm going to go do that," he said. "And I still have a few things around here that I need to do, but not much."

Tropical storm veteran Nancy Short was still taking the warnings in stride.

"I'm being cautious, but I'm not going to run out and be crazy about it."

Dundalk Patch offers this "one-stop shopping" Hurricane Sandy Storm Center, with all storm-related articles at your fingertips, all in one place.

Buzz Beeler October 29, 2012 at 06:52 PM
The crazy part comes after the storm and you realize how much cleaning up and rebuilding you have to do. Now that will drive you crazy. NY in Midtown Manhattan is expect a 22 foot storm surge.
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