310,000 Fil-Ams in harm’s way due to Hurricane Sandy
LOS ANGELES—Filipino-American teacher Maryann Abdon vividly remembers the whipping winds, pelting rains and mass evacuations when Hurricane “Irene” struck the US East Coast last year.
“It was terrifying,” said Abdon, who fled her home, about 5 kilometers from the bay in Cape May, New Jersey. “But this one (Hurricane ‘Sandy’) scares us more. We expect it to be really, really bad.”
Hurricane “Sandy” is expected to make landfall Monday night (Tuesday morning in Manila) near the southern New Jersey coast, prompting widespread evacuations and mass transit shutdowns.
The National Hurricane Center said Sandy was expected to bring “life-threatening storm surge flooding” to the East Coast.
The storm surge is expected to be as high as 3.3 meters in some areas, including Jersey City, New Jersey, which has a large Filipino-American community.
The Philippine Embassy on Monday issued an advisory urging Filipinos on the East Coast to “take all necessary precautions and brace themselves” for what has been described as the biggest storm in recent history.
The embassy said the advisory was sent to 11 states in the superstorm’s path. There are an estimated 310,000 Filipinos living in those states, according to the embassy.
Myrielle Falguera, a medical office administrator who lives in the seaside community of Long Beach, New York, said many Filipinos in the area had already been evacuated.
“Some friends and I decided to stay behind,” Falguera said. “It’s already cold and windy here. I hope we don’t lose electricity.”
Washington resident Arnedo Valera said his family stocked up on water, nonperishable food items, batteries and other essentials as early as Friday when they first heard about the approaching hurricane.
“We’re glad we made early preparations,” he said. “We heard some grocery stores have run out of food items.”
Valera, a lawyer and community leader who volunteers for the legal team of President Barack Obama’s local campaign, said he removed his “Vote for Obama” signs on his lawn in anticipation of strong winds and heavy rains. He said campaign activities were suspended.
Valera said his nonprofit group, Migrant Heritage Commission, forwarded the embassy’s advisory, along with government-issued emergency preparedness guidelines, to thousands of Filipinos by e-mail.
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations on the East Coast also distributed the embassy’s advisory to its members, said Washington-based Bing Branigin, the group’s assistant director of communications.
“We have full confidence in the government’s readiness to respond to emergencies,” Branigin said. “But we still have to remind community members not to be complacent and to be prepared.”
Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia Jr. said the embassy and the Philippine Consulate General in New York activated 24-hour help desks to assist Filipino tourists traveling to the East Coast who may be affected by the hurricane.
“We advise our [countrymen in places on] the path of Hurricane Sandy to stay indoors and avoid unnecessary travel until the storm has passed,” Cuisia said.
The advisory was sent to Filipino communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, District of Columbia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.
Filipinos who need assistance may call the embassy’s duty officer at (202) 368-2767 or the Consulate General in New York at (917) 294-0196, the advisory said.