Written by Elaine Specht
Katlyn Lynch, who is now located at Station Hobucken, North Carolina, will never forget the effects of Hurricane Sandy that she witnessed when her family lived at Station Sandy Hook, New Jersey. “It changed my life forever,” she says.
The Coast Guard housing was evacuated, her kids were staying with family, and her husband was on duty on Cutter Bainbridge Island when the hurricane—Superstorm Sandy—hit the Jersey Shore October 29, 2012. After the storm, “there was 10 feet of sand on the only road in and out of Sandy Hook,” she explains; and the homes were flooded. When the evacuated Coast Guard families finally returned to their homes more than a week later, not much was salvageable.
A challenge for the families located at Sandy Hook was that some of the units based there did not have an ombudsman. Lynch was among those that filled the void, working with the commands to locate families, assisting Casey Van Huysen, the ombudsman for Sector New York, and others to get donations of food, clothing, diapers, and cribs to the families that needed them, and helping families negotiate the paperwork to seek loans, grants, and reimbursements. Lynch, herself, had many out-of-pocket costs during the evacuation and recovery because her husband had his travel card with him.
Although specific reports vary, fatalities from Hurricane Sandy numbered in the hundreds. Demonstrating the resilience of military families, Lynch says that although the Sandy Hook families lost all their possessions, they were grateful for what they did have: their safety.
Lynch, who was inspired by her experiences with Superstorm Sandy and by Van Huysen to become the ombudsmen for Station Hobucken, sets a good example worth remembering throughout Hurricane Season: All units should have an ombudsman and need to maintain contact information for families. When disaster strikes, Coast Guard members may be deployed, leaving spouses to handle the situation on their own. Be sure to register your personal and family contact information with the unit, take evacuation orders seriously, and help others if you can.