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The Sandy Car Factor


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Photo by by Matthew Kraus

The story of Hurricane Sandy… told from a Car Donation point of view.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, thousands of flooded cars, spruced up and with their titles cleaned, were released into the used car market. Here’s what you have to know to protect yourself from buying the wrong car.

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Tragedy and Resilience During Hurricane Sandy

Kars4Kids tells the moving stories behind two car donations, stories of tragedy but also of hope for the future.

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Read it in stories

Behind every donation is a story: a family or business affected by the storm’s fury. Millions of lives were touched by Sandy. Here are two of their stories.

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Kars4Kids children learn all about fire trucks and fire safety

Kars4Kids representatives see their fair share of interesting vehicle donations, but it’s not every day that someone calls to donate a fire truck. Naturally, we had to find out the story behind this incredible, bright-yellow donation. Nor were we disappointed.

There’s a small waterway in New Jersey, a tributary of the Hackensack River, called Bellman’s Creek. A berm protects the nearby property from water infiltration during high tide. But when Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, the moon was full and the tide was unusually high. The massive tidal wave that swept ashore with the storm breached the berm and flooded 35 acres of property with up to four feet of water.

This wasn’t the first time the property, owned by Rubenstein Properties, LLC, was flooded. In summer 2011, when Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast, similar flooding and power outages had occurred. Their electric pumps stations had been rendered inoperable and the amount of water that had to be pumped was beyond the capacity of their backup diesel and gasoline pumps. But with widespread flooding all over the Tri-State area, there were no pumps to be had for sale or for rent anywhere.

Brian Archibald, executive vice president of Rubenstein Properties, tells the story: “We realized that a fire pumper would do the job and contacted local authorities. Understandably, they were not interested in using their equipment to help us pump river water, so we began to look for a used fire pumper. We quickly found one through a used fire equipment website which was located a few hours away in Pennsylvania. We spoke with the chief of the department which owned the truck, which was still in regular service, and told him if he could have it here by the next morning, he had a deal. The truck was delivered the next day and was quickly put to work helping to remove the water from our property. “

After Sandy flooded their property for the second time, the business owners chose to build a new electric pump station with backup power capabilities and a much greater pumping capacity than the fire truck. No longer in need of the fire truck, donation to Kars4Kids was the way to go.

“We are so happy that the truck has found a new home where it can hopefully bring joy and happiness to many children,” Archibald says.



The SUV the Moore family was traveling in when tragedy struck

Staten Island’s Great Kills neighborhood sits on high ground, beyond the borough’s evacuation zone. But when Hurricane Sandy hit on Monday evening, the area became a war zone with power outages, downed trees and flooding everywhere. Home alone with her little boys, two-year-old Brandon and four-year-old Connor, Glenda Moore, 39, realized she had to evacuate. Glenda quickly threw some things into her SUV, strapped her kids into their car seats and drove off for her sister’s home in Brooklyn where her husband, Damien, was working. But the 2003 Ford Explorer stalled on Father Capodanno Boulevard.

Outside the car, winds were gusting at 80 mph and floodwaters were rising in the streets. Glenda, a nurse, unstrapped the toddlers, hoping to find shelter at a nearby house. Holding Connor tightly by the hand and clutching Brandon close in her arms, she set out from the car. But before she got too far, a powerful wave of water swept the boys away from her. The panicked mother knocked frantically on several doors seeking help but was turned away. She spent the night on the porch of an empty house, where rescuers found her and began searching for the toddlers. The boys were finally found days later, drowned, in a marshy dead end street, not far from each other.

Back on the Boulevard, the abandoned blue SUV was left with twisted tires and the front window shattered. The children’s stroller and diapers were still in the trunk and a teddy bear sat forlorn in one of the car seats. Glenda and Damien Moore wanted nothing to do with the vehicle, so Lt. Kevin Gallagher, the New York cop who helped Glenda, donated the SUV to Kars4Kids, where the proceeds went to the charity’s programs for children.

Crunching the numbers

Having received so many Sandy-related car donations, Kars4Kids got an inside look at the storm’s damage to cars. Here are some interesting stats we dug up.

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November 2012 saw a 40% increase in donations over November 2011 from locations hit by Sandy.


The average year of cars donated is 1997, but the average year of Sandy cars that were donated is 2000.


77% of the Hurricane Sandy cars
were from New York, while New Jersey provided 20%.


We compared a heat map of the areas Sandy hit with a map showing where cars donated in the aftermath of the hurricane came from. Surprisingly enough, they correlated perfectly, with the most cars coming from the hardest-hit areas.

Car donations made after Sandy

Hardest hit areas by sandy

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Who donated and what they donated.


See It In Pictures

These are all real photos of Sandy-damaged cars that were donated to Kars4Kids following the hurricane. For more photos visit the Kars4kids Garage.

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  • Portfolio Item
    This bright 1994 Chevrolet pickup truck from Norwalk, CT had only 85,000 miles on it when a tree fell on it during the hurricane.
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    This green 2000 Volkswagen New Beetle may look okay from the outside, but it was flooded in Rockaway Beach, NY when Sandy washed the Atlantic Ocean over the area. Its donor told us she may have the title, “but most likely it floated away with the flood.”
  • Portfolio Item
    In this close up shot of a car’s odometer, you can see the condensation beading the dashboard, telltale sign of a flooded vehicle.
  • Portfolio Item
    This red 1994 Mitsubishi from Danbury, CT was still running until Hurricane Sandy hit and a large tree fell on the car, causing heavy damage, as you can see.
  • Portfolio Item
    This photo shows the debris-strewn interior of a 2005 Jeep Grand Cherokee from Stamford, CT. Though the motor runs and it has new tires, its owner chose to donate it after a large tree fell on it during the hurricane, damaging the roof.
  • Portfolio Item
    The damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy is evident in this photo of a 1998 Honda Civic from Wyckoff, NJ. As you can clearly see, its roof was badly damaged by a felled tree.

Hurricane Sandy Time Line

Hurricane Sandy was a fearsome natural disaster the likes of which the United States had rarely seen, and which left massive destruction in its wake. The following timeline offers a cameo of this fierce and unforgettable event from its beginnings, deep within the Caribbean Sea, to its much anticipated ending over the state of Pennsylvania just ten days later.

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Officially Dubbed “Sandy”

A tropical depression develops off the coast of Nicaragua and as it gains strength, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service issues advisories that Tropical Depression 18 had become Tropical Storm Sandy with winds of up to 40 mph.


Florida Storm Watch Advisories Issued

The NOAA National Weather Service issues advisories that a Tropical Storm watch might be needed for parts of South Florida and the Florida Keys for that evening.


50 Dead In Haiti

Sandy is designated a Category 1 hurricane as it moves north, crossing the Caribbean and then Jamaica with maximum of 80 mph. Sandy’s eye misses the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Still, in Haiti, flooding and mudslides result in more than 50 dead. At 5:00 AM EST, the NOAA National Weather Service issues Tropical Storm watches for the eastern coast of Florida.

At the FEMA regional office in Atlanta, Ga., the storm is monitored, the 18th named storm of the 2012 Atlantic Hurricane Season. At 5:00 AM EST, the NOAA National Weather Service issues Tropical Storm watches for the eastern coast of Florida.


21 Dead in the Caribbean

Hurricane Sandy claims 21 lives in the Caribbean, 11 of them in eastern Cuba, then moves on to the Bahamas. FEMA measures winds of 105 mph.

The American Red Cross offers New Yorkers the free mobile phone Red Cross Hurricane App for real time information. The app comes with flashlight, strobe light, and alarm along with a one-touch, “I’m Safe,” button, for informing loved ones that all is well.

At 8:00 AM, Tropical Storm warnings are still in effect for southeast Florida and for the east coast of Florida.


State Of Emergency, New York

Sandy becomes stronger from Jamaica to Cuba striking Santiago de Cuba with winds of 110 mph, just missing designation as a Category 3 hurricane. The hurricane destroys everything in its path as it moves across the Bahamas and then veers north-northwest.

New York declares a state of emergency.FEMA deploys Incident Management Assistance Teams to Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont to assist in setting up emergency operation centers in 12 states.

At 8:00 AM, Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings from the NOAA National Weather Service are extended to the coast of South Carolina and parts of the North Carolina coast.

President Obama is briefed by FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, National Hurricane Center Director Dr. Rick Knabb, and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan as Sandy moves toward the United States mainland.

The U.S. Coast Guard asks boaters and others to stay off the water and away from beaches, while advising certain populations to evacuate or secure belongings or hazardous materials, as necessary. Fear of rip currents prompts the closing of several coastal ports.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) advises those in the path of the store to make sure they would have continued access to safe food.

The U.S. National Guard dispatches over 61,000 National Guard personnel to guard the eastern seaboard.


Caribbean Death Toll 70 Or More

Sandy turns from the Bahamas to the northeast coast of Florida. The death toll in the Caribbean is estimated at 70 or more. Sandy weakens for a short time, reverting to the status of tropical depression and then steps things back up, once again becoming a Category 1 hurricane.

A State of Emergency is declared in New Jersey with concerns that the brunt of the storm will be borne by the Garden State.

President Obama is again briefed. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate reach out to the governors of 14 states threatened by Sandy along with the mayors of New York and Washington, D.C., to ensure their preparedness for Sandy.

The American Red Cross mobilizes hundreds of disaster workers and readies shelters with items such as cots, blankets, and ready-to-eat meal rations.


New York Stock Exchange Closes

Sandy moves northeast but remains well offshore as it moves inland parallel to the Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina coasts. In spite of this, the storm causes waves to gather force washing out sections of North Carolina Highway 12.

While still a Category 1 hurricane with maximum winds of 80 mph, it is believed the storm will become even stronger, becoming a super-storm as it moves northward.

A high-pressure cold front to the north of Sandy will move the storm toward northwest U.S. cities such as Baltimore, Washington, New York, and Philadelphia. Sandy’s winds have now covered an area of around 1,000 miles.

The full moon is approaching which is expected to increase the storm surge that had been expected to reach 11-12 feet in some areas. Schools are closed and evacuations begin in parts of Atlantic City, Brooklyn, lower Manhattan, New Jersey, and Staten Island. 72 evacuation centers are opened in New York

The NYC subway closes down for 24 hours starting Sunday evening at 7:00 PM. Broadway, the United Nations, and casinos in New Jersey are all closed Sunday night for between 24-48 hours. Airlines cancel over 7,000 flights.

200 New York Army National Guard soldiers and 150 airmen are deployed to New York City.

The New York Stock Exchange announces the floor will be closed Monday with all trading suspended.

President Obama issues emergency declarations for Connecticut, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York and visits the FEMA National Response Coordination Center for a briefing.

Over 1,000 FEMA personnel are dispatched to the East Coast.

At 5:00 am EST, NOAA National Weather Service issues a public advisory that Hurricane Sandy is now 285 miles east of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, moving northward at 15 mph. Maximum sustained winds have increased to 85 mph.


Sandy Hits New York City

Sandy makes its move toward the coast of New Jersey at 12:30 PM. The storm interacts with various weather systems and the result is heavy snowfall in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.

Sandy runs about 300 miles over open water as it makes its move for landfall. The full moon helps the storm gather greater momentum.

A replica of the HMS Bounty, en route from Connecticut to Florida with 16 passengers, gets stuck in Sandy’s roiling seas just off the Outer Banks. As the pumps fail and the ship sinks, all passengers and crew abandon ship. The captain and one crew member fail to make it to safety.

Sandy’s high winds and torrents of rain move from Washington, D.C., toward the north, uprooting trees and power lines. All told, over 50 million people along the Eastern Seaboard will lose electricity.

At 8:00 PM, the center of the storm comes ashore close to Atlantic City. The storm has been downgraded to post-tropical nor’easter. The unusual southeastern course the storm takes worsens the storm surge for New Jersey and New York.

The winds and storm surges of cyclones tend to be concentrated to the front and right due to their forward motion, thus New York Harbor bears the brunt of Sandy’s impact.

The full moon adds around a foot to the height of the storm surge and Sandy arrives at high tide. The surge reaches almost 14 feet, breaking the 1960 record for Hurricane Donna of just over 10 feet, as Donna moved just offshore.

The storm surge goes over the seawall at The Battery in Lower Manhattan and floods sections of the New York City subway system. The Hugh Carey Tunnel, responsible for linking Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, is also flooded.

Staten Island is brutally afflicted by the storm as well with towns such as Oakwood Beach, Midland Beach, South Beach and Tottenville among the worst-hit communities.


Sandy Weakens

Sandy begins to move away from New York, but the Northeast is still feeling the back of the storm. As Sandy moves into Pennsylvania, her powerful strength begins to falter.


40 Dead In New York City Alone

The storm dissipates over western Pennsylvania, leaving over 70 dead in the Caribbean and 109 dead in the United States, 40 dead from New York City, alone. Half of all deaths in the State of New York occur in Staten Island. Damages from Hurricane Sandy exceed $50 billion.

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