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Mandatory flood evacuation zones changed after basement drownings during Sandy

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Figuring out which homeowners – which neighborhoods should be subject to a mandatory evacuation order is no small decision. There are financial and logistical considerations. But for families here in Gerritsen beach – it’s an easy decision. They believe if a mandatory evacuation order would have been in place for hurricane sandy, a life would have been saved…and many more would not have been put in so much danger.

James Krins says his uncle Richard drowned as flood waters from Hurricane Sandy overwhelmed his basement apartment on Dare Court in Gerritsen Beach Brooklyn.

BasementDrown

Family members say James Krins drowned in his basement because he was never told to evacuate

James says his uncle stayed – because no one told him to leave.

He thought he was safe.

“I’m upset that we didn’t get an alert sooner to tell us we have to leave. (That) this area has to leave quick, now – today. Then we all would have left. And he’d be alive today,” Krins said.

The city expanded the “Zone-A” mandatory evacuation zone last year after Hurricane Irene – to include the Rockaways and other flood prone neighborhoods.

East Williamsburg, Howard Beach, and Gerritsen Beach could be merged into Zone-A.

Why isn’t it a slam dunk?

Money.

A Zone-A designation would likely require homeowners to purchase flood insurance in order to carry their mortgage.

But State Senator Marty Golden says safety should be the overriding concern.

“The most important part is saving lives, and giving families an opportunity to get their children out of here. Not to have to witness what they witnessed. Those kids that day witnessed something that they’ll never witness again i hope in the rest of their lives. They’ll never forget it”, Golden said.

Jessica Jensem, her husband, and their three young children…barely escaped their home that night with their lives.

Jensem told Pix11’s Jay Dow, “We called the fire department to please come and get us. My husband was on the phone begging them – we have three young babies in the house, please come and get us.  They said, get to the highest ground possible, god bless. We cannot get to you. My husband had to run out to the car to get life jackets for my kids because we didn’t know when the water was gonna stop.”

Dow asked Jensem, “You had to make the call on your own, at the last minute, and you just barely got out?”

She responded, “Yeah, yeah, it was very frightening. My kids were hysterical crying.”

Back on Dare Court, James Krins is still living that nightmare…and says he still thinking about his uncle every day.

“Yes. He’s gone. That’s it. I miss him so much.”

As you might imagine, the last several weeks have been extraordinarily tough for James and his family. He says he has yet to go down into that storm damaged basement, where his uncle lived – and died.