Relief and worry as Sandy subsides
WHEN US citizen Emily Gorham touched down in Brisbane today, it was the beginning of a new chapter for her and her Australian partner Andrew Massey.
The two have been having a long-distance relationship for the past four years, with Andrew travelling to the US regularly to see his bride-to-be. But now he has started an electrician's apprenticeship, he needs to stay in Australia, so Emily is in Oz until January to start their life together.
When she boarded the Qantas flight at Los Angeles on Wednesday night she was excited about this new chapter, but concerned for family and friends she has left behind on the East Coast of America, many of whom have felt the full force of Hurricane Sandy, which has devastated so much of the coastline, including New York City.
"I have family in Maine and Massachusetts," she said.
"Some of my family I haven't been able to contact yet.
" I'm pretty anxious, and I feel bad because I'm here in beautiful Australia and they are at home without power.
" I know they will be ok but it's worrying."
The mood at LAX (Los Angeles International airport) was calm and quiet late on Wednesday night, despite thousands of flights being disrupted across the country during the past few days. Around 11pm local time, it was announced JFK in New York was reopening in a limited capacity. The 'cancelled' signs which had filled line after line of the arrivals and departures boards, were slowly replaced with 'on schedule' signs.
Although the worst of the storm appears to be over, the clean up bill is expected to run into the billions of dollars and many New Yorkers, some who were evacuated, some who were lucky enough to be away at the time, still do not know what awaits them when they return.
"It's really terrible," Steven, a New Yorker who was holidaying with his family in Las Vegas when the hurricane hit, said.
I have no idea what is going on with my house in Brooklyn, but all my family is here with me in Vegas so we are safe.
"You know the weird thing is that this year I took out flood insurance for the first time. I didn't even want to but it was a condition of my mortgage. That's pretty lucky right? So whatever happens my family is safe and I'm insured."
Australian Nicole Steele, who was planning to holiday in New York for a week when Sandy hit, was returning home early.
"It's disappointing of course," she said of her holiday being cut short. "But at least we're safe and were able to get home. I feel for all the people affected who have had their homes damaged or worse.
"I know JFK is open again now and we might be able to get to New York in a couple of days, but really, it's not the time to be touristing. That would be like visiting Brisbane after it flooded. It wouldn't be right. They need time to get it all sorted.
"We were just lucky to get on a flight home. If they hadn't have been able to fit us on tonight's flight, we were told it would be days before we could get home.
"We will come back next year and see New York then."