Flooding in New York City’s financial district. (Photo: Polaris)

Super-storm Sandy lived up to expectations yesterday and overnight, delivering a powerful punch with heavy rains, strong winds, and significant storm surge. After taking 69 lives in the Caribbean, Sandy hit the eastern United States, where at least 16 people have died. Our thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by the storm.

Millions of Americans on the East Coast are without power today as they begin to survey the damage and destruction of the monster storm. The Weather Channel is projecting that “This storm won’t sweep out to sea quickly, but slowly, painfully wind down over the next few days.”

Coastal communities in the Mid-Atlantic are among the hardest hit by the storm. Flooding is posing problems for small towns and big cities alike, including New York. Parts of Manhattan lost power as the storm slammed into the Big Apple. Areas near Atlantic City, NJ, were consumed by the rising water level. One crew member died when a ship sank off the coast of North Carolina.

Americans are already coming together to help family, friends, and neighbors. First responders are navigating dangerous conditions to rescue individuals in need. Other citizens are answering the call to lend a helping hand. State and local governments took a leading role to prepare their communities for the disaster and mobilize once the storm hit.

Today, as many communities begin to assess the damage, they’ll need help to rebuild. While some will call for Washington to provide aid, individuals should look to faith-based and community organizations, which are uniquely positioned to provide relief in Sandy’s aftermath.

The American Red Cross has already mobilized more than 1,000 disaster workers in communities up and down the East Coast. Local Red Cross chapters are providing shelters for those who need housing. To find a shelter, the Red Cross is encouraging people to download the Red Cross Hurricane app, visit its website, or call 1-800-RED CROSS. The Red Cross also offers information about checking your home for structural damage and ensuring your utilities are working properly.

Meanwhile, the Salvation Army has already deployed dozens of mobile feeding units in seven states to serve thousands of meals. The organization is working with local emergency management officials to determine where help is needed most.

In addition to the Red Cross and Salvation Army, local faith-based and community organizations will play vital roles in the emergency response to Sandy. Heritage’s James Jay Carafano and Jennifer Marshall identified areas where these organizations can help Americans now and in the future: spiritual relief with depression and loss, public confidence, supplies and volunteers, and long-term rebuilding.

“Grassroots organizations can also provide aid that adapts as needs change,” Carafano and Marshall wrote. “Because the likelihood of confusion and ambiguity increases with the scale of the disaster, improvisation is crucial for effective response. Research has found that the communities themselves are the best sources of innovation and ingenuity, and the stronger the communities, the more resourceful are their efforts.”

Now is the time for those communities to come together. Sandy certainly packed a powerful punch that won’t soon be forgotten. Fortunately, America is a resilient nation. Whether you were directly affected by the storm, know someone who was, or are watching from afar, there’s a way to help. Consider a donation to the Red Cross, Salvation Army, or a local charity.

Quick Hits:

  • After a backup generator failed, about 200 patients had to be evacuated from New York University’s Langone Medical Center last night.
  • Three towns in New Jersey have flooded, driving residents from their homes.
  • One estimate is already pegging the U.S. damage from Hurricane Sandy at $20 billion.
  • President Obama has said if he wins a second term, he would like to create a Secretary of Business. “We should have one Secretary of Business, instead of nine different departments that are dealing with things like giving loans to SBA or helping companies with exports,” he said.
  • The Heritage Foundation is closed today due to the storm. As of this morning, the D.C. Metro is shut down and the federal government is closed.