Nightly News   |  October 29, 2013

One year after Sandy: milestones and setbacks

Thousands are still trying to find their way home after Superstorm Sandy destroyed swaths of the East Coast. NBC’s Lester Holt reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> and back to breezy point, the section of coastal new york city , we could not have stood here at the height of the storm that started a year ago tonight. as storms go, remember it was only a category 1. the problem with sandy was it hit us on our vulnerable side. a massive storm surge up and down the coastline, 80 miles an hour winds. and this entire area got a lesson in vulnerability, including the devastation along the jersey shore , a lot of it is visible to this day. lester holt is there tonight. good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening, you may not have expected to see this a year later, but each battered destroyed house now, each empty lot , each home rising along the ocean front tells a story, maybe a story of renew or disappointment. for others, it is a story of limbo, living as if sandy hit only yesterday. sandy hit at high tide .

>> the fear that all the water will come together and choke this town.

>> reporter: there was simply no defense for a 14-foot storm surge .

>> the entire coastline has basically been rearranged.

>> reporter: it swamped the electrical grid and laid waste to hundreds of miles of shoreline.

>> i went to a friend's house, thinking i would be back the next day.

>> reporter: a year later, bill mullin tends to the lot where his new jersey beach home once stood. he didn't have flood insurance .

>> they allowed me $ 1500 to replace the shingles on my roof and the siding and the walls.

>> reporter: a roof he no longer has, sandy destroyed nearly 50,000 homes, causing at least $65 billion in damage, one estimate is that many have not returned home. the hotels that were paid for by the city of new york , this family just now found a home.

>> we were people that were living in homes that were destroyed by sandy . and they were treating us like we were somebody they picked up off the street.

>> reporter: it was a year of milestones, the return of people to the beaches and the reopening of long beach this past friday. it has also been a year of setbacks, including the accidental fire on the boardwalk. of the $50 billion in aid approved by congress, nearly $14 billion has been paid out or approved, including the flood insurance payouts which generated fierce complaints.

>> they have let everybody down, they're low-balling everybody giving numbers that can't allow them to rebuild their homes.

>> reporter: in seabright new jersey, the flood-damaged homes still stand, but are empty.

>> it is humble.

>> reporter: wow, one of them belongs to the town's mayor.

>> unfortunately, the coverage will be only 30% of what we need to rebuild or homes.

>> reporter: in a statement, fema says they won't be satisfied until families receive the payment covered for all losses. while it is still difficult to understand the bureaucracy after hurricane sandy , the physical aspects are are still there. take for instance the sand dune , built at a much higher level than before the storm. sand is replenished after the storm.

>> i think we have to look at the future that sandy will happen again and again around our coast, and not just the mid-atlantic. the rest of the coast is not immune to this devastation.

>> reporter: liz homer rebuilt her flood-damaged home 14 feet above sea level .

>> i just knew if we were going to stay here and feel a sense of security ever again, i knew there was no other option but to do that.

>> reporter: a sense of security that eludes thousands who are still trying to find their way home. there is still so much focus on what the government has and has not delivered. but brian, let's remember that at the height of this there were more than 400 charities and organizations helping people get back on their feet. many are still helping out tonight.