Caught up in Hurricane Sandy

HURRICANE: Peel's Audrey Quirk with The Star Ledger's Special Sandy Edition. PHOTO: John Watterson.

HURRICANE: Peel's Audrey Quirk with The Star Ledger's Special Sandy Edition. PHOTO: John Watterson.

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WELL-KNOWN Peel woman Audrey Quirk recently returned home from Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey where she was making her annual visit to see her youngest son Andrew and family.

He and wife Patricia (nee Key), emigrated to the United States in 1984 where Andrew has his own physiotherapy practice. They have two children, Emily, 24, and Thomas, 22.

Known as the Garden State, most of New Jersey received extensive damage when a storm from the north of the Eastern Seaboard clashed head-on with the hurricane which had originated in the Caribbean. Moving inland, the New Jersey and New York areas were the first to be hit.

‘Everyone was given plenty of warning of the imminent arrival of Hurricane Sandy, enabling people to stock up with provisions and secure what they could in gardens and garage areas,’ said Mrs Quirk, back home in Peel last week.

‘It hit us around 5pm on Monday, October 29. We lost our power and spent the evening and much of the following day indoors playing card games by candlelight while the winds abated.

‘On the night of the storm we saw many flashes in the sky from electricity transformers exploding in the distance.

‘To be honest, I was not unduly concerned by the high winds and damage. Living in Peel, I’m kind of used to the winds and I lived through the blitz,’ she smiled.

‘Luckily, although the electricity was off for the rest of the week, we were able to cook on gas. Andrew twice queued for up to three hours for petrol only for the supply to run out before he got served.

‘Schools and many businesses in the area were closed for several days, but strangely some areas close by did not lose their electricity link. Andrew’s business premises, just a 15-minute walk away, was not affected and friends and clients of his were popping in to charge up their cellphones as the landlines were out of action and they had no other forms of communication.

‘Halloween was cancelled as it was unsafe for children to be walking round the towns trick-or-treating because of the amount of fallen trees and electricity pylons.’

Most of the houses in the area are wood constuction, so many of those hit by the storm were badly damaged.

‘Atlantic City, one hour away on the coast, was severely hit, as were parts of New York, 45 minutes drive away, but the area I was in got off relatively lightly. A large maple tree came down in a neighbour’s garden, but fortunately there was no damage to Andrew and Patricia’s home.

‘They lost the contents of the freezer and the power was off for a total of 10 days. There were no trains or planes for the remainder of the working week, but some business premises installed mobile generators to enable them to remain open.

‘My granddaughter Emily was unable to travel to her place of work at Estee Lauder in Manhatten as many of the tunnel links were flooded. Grandson Thomas was also home as Drew College, New Jersey – which he attends – remained closed for the week.’

It ended up a real family occasion as Mrs Quirk’s middle son Peter and wife Susan were also visiting from Kent.

‘It had been a lovely Fall prior to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, afterwards it became much colder and within a week there was snow.’

Mrs Quirk, whose late husband Harrison ran Quirk’s bakery and grocery shop in Michael Street until the early 1980s, travelled back to the UK with Peter and Susan, spending several days with them in Sidcup before returning home to the island.

Her eldest son, Anthony, and wife Jill ran L’Experience restaurant at the foot of Summerhill, Douglas, for more than a quarter of a century.

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