Portola Valley native takes up house-hunting in wake of storm | November 7, 2012 | Almanac | Almanac Online |



News - November 7, 2012

Portola Valley native takes up house-hunting in wake of storm

by Dave Boyce

Portola Valley native Laura MacMillan, 23, was for a time a displaced person. She still lives in Brooklyn, just not in the same apartment she occupied on Monday, Oct. 28, while Superstorm Sandy sent about 4 to 5 feet of canal water into the basement of the two-story living space she shared with two roommates.

Her neighborhood, Gowanus, is just east of the waterfront community of Red Hook, one of the neighborhoods worst hit by the flooding.

Made homeless by the storm along with thousands of others, one roommate made her way to Los Angeles while Ms. MacMillan and her other roommate spent three days looking for another home, she said in a telephone interview. It was a scramble, she said. They walked and they biked, and at one point a broker drove them around. They signed a lease on a new apartment, also in Brooklyn, on Thursday.

Friends filled in during the interim with offers of hot showers and hot food, Ms. MacMillan said. A new apartment may be a welcome change. The Gowanus Canal is a super-fund site and in the top five of the United States' most polluted waterways, she said.

She expected to return to work on Saturday, baking for a Greenpoint, Brooklyn, bakery after several involuntary days off. "The bakery is running, but on a much diminished scale," she said. On a normal day, its baked goods include muffins and scones, quick breads and short bread, cakes and brownies, she said.

The storm's aftermath left many of the bakery's commercial customers closed due to the blackout in lower Manhattan, but she said that even had that not been the case, the flooded subway system and the crippling shortage of gasoline would have prevented deliveries.

As a kid, Ms. MacMillan went to Ormondale and Corte Madera schools. She graduated from Menlo-Atherton High School in 2007 and has a bachelor's degree in cognitive science from the University of California, Berkeley, she said. She moved to New York City in April 2012 and started at the bakery in June.

Ahead of the storm, the three women had relocated to a friend's place in nearby Prospect Heights. When they returned home the next day, some of the electrical outlets were dead and "all of the furniture (in the basement) was totally toppled over," Ms. MacMillan said. A bed had floated to the other side of the room.

They spent the day cleaning and removing the damaged furniture. The potential for mold made finding a new home a necessity, she said.

She and her roommates were among about 10 displaced residents on her block, which includes a couple of auto body shops and a couple of empty lots, she said. She has applied for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.

She and a friend walked into Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge one night. "It was definitely a very eerie feeling, walking with such a large chunk of the city totally black," she said. It seemed to her a "zombie apocalypse," she added. "Walking around in that part of the city without being able to see where you're walking is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

"We're going to pull through," she said. "The worst is certainly over."


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