Sandy survivor: 'Heart breaks' for Harvey victims

BEACH HAVEN WEST, N.J. (WPVI) -- As Harvey continues to slam the Gulf Coast and the city of Houston, Texas, it's hard to fight back memories of the devastation caused in New Jersey by Superstorm Sandy nearly five years ago.

The flashbacks are especially difficult for those who lost their homes when the storm came ashore.

"My heart breaks for these people because I was in their situation, so I know what they're going through, I know what they're about to go through," said Joe Mangino of Beach Haven West, New Jersey.

Mangino is with the New Jersey Organizing Project, a non-profit founded by Sandy survivors to help people deal with all kinds of post-storm recovery issues.

He says the flood victims in Texas have no idea what they're in for.

"If they were like me, they're going to foolishly think that once the water recedes they're going to get their house back in order and will be home in six to eight weeks. And that's the furthest thing from the truth. Every step of the way is going to be a fight," Mangino said.

Mangino says that includes fighting with insurance companies, FEMA and shady contractors, to name a few.

Sandy victim Chuck Griffin just got back in his Little Egg Harbor home last week. Rebuilding was delayed by a contractor who took $50,000 but didn't do the work.

"He gambled it all away, and he now is in jail. But what good does that do me?" Griffin said.

Both Griffin and Mangino say the Texas flood victims should document everything, from all the items they lost in the storm to each conversation they have with a recovery official.

There will be endless paperwork and phone calls. They say everyone will need patience.

"They're going want things to happen rather quickly and they're going to find out things happen very slowly," said Griffin.

Complete coverage of Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath

One thing Harvey victims may not be prepared for is the emotional toll of this disaster will take on them. Almost five years later, many here are still dealing with that.

The Organizing Project has been getting distress calls from Sandy survivors as they watch the pictures from Texas on TV.

"That's the gist of what we're getting from folks, is that they're really having a hard time coping, sort of re-experiencing the same sort of trauma they experienced seeing their own house," said Priscilla Robinson of the NJ Organizing Project.

For information on how you can help the victims of Harvey, visit this link here on

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