It's been more than a month since Hurricane Sandy tore through the Northeast, leaving behind billions of dollars in damage.
Now as survivors dig out and try to regroup from the Oct. 29 storm even as wintry weather moves in, some are coping better than others.
This is the second of five stories of Sandy victims trying to find their way ahead after the storm.
By Meghan Barr
Finding a warm place to lay their heads at night has become a full-time occupation for the Alhadad family, who swam to their SUV in waist-deep water as the ocean roared down their block on New York's Staten Island during the storm.
They slept in the car at first, running the engine to keep warm. But soon the family of six resumed sleeping in their tiny two-room rental home, which was reduced to a soggy, mildewed mess after the water rose nearly to the ceiling on the first floor.
The wreckage of their belongings was thrown out, replaced by donated furniture covered in Red Cross blankets and towels.
Piled under layers of blankets and sleeping bags on the floor, the family ran a generator for a few hours at night to drift off into a warm sleep. But when morning came, they were chilled to the bone.
"All of us have really bad colds," said Rachael Alhadad, who has a hacking cough. "We just take it day by day, that's all. That's all you can do now."
Last week, FEMA finally put the Alhadads up in two rooms at a nearby Holiday Inn, where they'll stay until the federal money runs out on Dec. 15. After that, if their home is still uninhabitable, the family might be eligible for a two-month rental assistance grant from FEMA. But they haven't made plans and aren't sure what's next.
Rachael and her husband, Amin, spend their days shuttling back and forth between the hotel and the house, cleaning the house and cooking meals on the gas stove, which is one of the only things in the house that still works.
Now they must wait as their landlord negotiates with his insurance company. As the days grow shorter, the place has become a damp breeding ground for mold.
"They have to bleach the walls. They have to redo all the floors," Rachael said. "The whole thing. The bathroom, the kitchen cupboards, the fridge."
Amin, who emigrated to the U.S. years ago from Dubai, lost his job as a truck driver because he missed so much work after the storm.
The stress of the past few weeks has taken its toll on 14-year-old Ameer and 15-year-old Ayman, who lost all of their school books and supplies in the flood.
"They just got their report cards, and they're not doing very good at all," Rachael said. "It's hard to study. Because then you gotta think about, 'Oh no, I gotta go home to the same thing again.' "
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