NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A year after Superstorm Sandy drove Deborah Dinan from her Milford home, she lives above a loud bar and is often reduced to tears as she struggles to return.
Dinan, a 59-year-old nurse on disability due to health problems, is pursuing a government grant to repair and elevate her flood-ravaged home. She spends her days dealing with contractors and government paperwork, while at night she tries to sleep through the loud music coming from beneath her temporary apartment.
“I can’t stand it. I’m really going crazy,” Dinan said. “Not even to mention how depressing it is a year later that nothing has been done in the house. There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t cry. I don’t want to be here. I want to be back home.”
Dinan is among hundreds of Connecticut residents still out of homes that were damaged by Sandy, including many who are hoping for government grants for costs that were not covered by flood insurance. Many storm victims are required to elevate their homes, a project that can easily cost $100,000.
At least 200 families remain displaced in Milford alone, officials said.
The storm slammed the Connecticut shoreline on Oct. 29, flooding homes and businesses and cutting power to more than 600,000 customers. Six people were killed in the state. Federal assistance, loans and insurance claims worth more than $280 million have been paid out.
A year later, some neighborhoods along the coast have been transformed into giant construction zones with houses elevated on steel beams. Other neighborhoods are filled with vacant houses.
Officials say applications are only now being accepted for some federal government grants. Andrew Doba, a spokesman for Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, said officials are trying to expedite aid but federal guidelines required the state to submit a draft plan and have public comment periods on how to spend the money.
Many homeowners have been overwhelmed as they deal with insurers, contractors and government officials.
“I would have been better off if my house burned down,” said Kathy Strachan, a Fairfield resident. “Every time I turn around something else hits me in the head. There’s no easy process for this. It’s extremely confusing. You get different answers from everyone. So I just decided to put the brakes on.”
Strachan said she is putting off elevating her house, which she is required to do because the damage exceeded 50 percent of the value of the structure, and is instead focusing on another $40,000 worth of needed repairs.
Strachan, a media consultant who has already spent $20,000 on her house, has been living with friends.
“I’m living out of bags and boxes on the floor,” she said. “It’s hard but it’s doable. I wish Sandy never happened but it did.”
Susan Reinhart of Fairfield said she’s already spent $150,000 to lift and repair her home. She’s lived in five places “and possibly soon in my car.”
Reinhart, a 72-year-old college professor, said her friends have been kind, “but there’s only so far you can impose on people with three dogs. That’s fine for maybe a month but for a year?”
Danielle Blumner, a 65-year-old real estate agent who lives in Milford, is trying to stay upbeat.
“I keep telling myself it’s a house and it’s not health,” Blumner said. “Unfortunately, the process is very slow, very arduous, very frustrating.”
Blumner, who is renting another home, is planning to lift and repair her small house. She’s applying for a government grant to help cover the cost and recently ordered a storage pod in anticipation of moving her belongings back home.
Dinan, who praised FEMA’s handling of the storm, isn’t sure when she’ll be able to move back into her home and is worried about hidden damage.
“I’m just hoping that it elevates and doesn’t crumble,” Dinan said.
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