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A fire following Superstorm Sandy destroyed Siesta resident Helene Hyland’s childhood home in New York. Courtesy photo.
Siesta Key Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 5 years ago

Resident faces storm aftermath

by: Alex Mahadevan News Innovation Editor

Siesta Key Village Association Secretary Helene Hyland found out Superstorm Sandy destroyed her home in Breezy Point, N.Y., by way of Facebook.

While scrolling her Facebook news feed to get updates during the storm, the Siesta resident of more than a decade saw a picture of her summer home, which had been destroyed by a fire caused by Sandy. Firefighters had put out the last of the fire’s flames at what remained of the beach-themed bungalow.
The home, which had been in Hyland’s family for more than 40 years, was one of 131 homes destroyed by fire.

“It’s heartbreaking, because it’s a home that had a lot of memories,” Hyland said.

Because of the fire, she lost her parents’ wedding album, photographs and mementos of summers spent celebrating birthdays and bonding with family.

The storm had knocked out most telecommunications on the island, so Facebook became a key source of information about the disaster in a place where she and her sister, fellow Siesta resident Meg Kaiven, still have strong ties to family and friends.

“Everybody knows everybody; it’s a very tight-knit community,” Hyland said.

Most residents of the community, which was first settled with tents that evolved into beach bungalows, are natives, Hyland said.

“They call it the ‘island of T-shirts and maiden names,’” Hyland said.

And, with its two bridges, the community is so similar to Siesta that Hyland called Siesta Key “Breezy Point South” when she sold real estate to northerners.

Hyland was stuck on Siesta throughout the aftermath of the storm and doesn’t anticipate returning before next year.

Hyland was frustrated watching the disaster, which didn’t result in any Breezy Point deaths, because she could barely communicate with friends and family affected and was advised that she couldn’t do much if she flew up to the peninsula in the borough of Queens.

Most of the structures that remained after the storm were heavily damaged from floodwater, which was as high as doorways at points, Hyland said.

“Most people headed for the church, but even the church was flooded,” Hyland said.

Blasé Café owner Rami Nehme showed Hyland that although Siesta may be a few miles longer and be home to a more affluent population, it has the same charitable spirit of Breezy Point.

Nehme collected donations — and donated himself — to reach the goal of $3,000 in aid during a November charity event, which collected donations of clothing and bottled water to be sent to the Northeast.

“I was very touched, and it made me feel very good to be part of the Village,” Hyland said of the event.

She’ll go back to Breezy Pointe in the spring and already has plans to rebuild the bungalow.

Hyland said she wants to keep it as similar as possible, except that she’ll have central air, she noted with a smile.

“It makes you a little more alert,” Hyland said. “It maybe should be a wake up call to all of us.”

To help the residents of Breezy Point, donations can be sent to:
Breezy Point Cooperative Relief Fund
2175 Flatbush Ave.
Brooklyn, N.Y., 11234

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