When Hurricane Irene roared ashore last year, Jeff Spangler was hit hard.
The slow-moving storm whipped up a powerful tidal surge that breached sea walls protecting Jersey City, a bedroom Manhattan community, and flooded Spangler's home to the tune of thousands of dollars in damage and months of home repair.
This year, it happened again.
Superstorm Sandy and its rare mix of converging weather set records as it barreled into the Northeast on October 29 -- but its local effects may not have seemed so rare to Spangler and others who had survived Irene.
Just like in 2011, floodwater poured into the low-lying neighborhoods of Jersey City, knocking out power and filling Spangler's basement.
Now, the father of three says he's considering cutting his losses and moving out.
"The more this flooding happens ... the lower property values will sink," Spangler said. "I'll end up being underwater, literally."
Like many of his neighbors, Spangler rents out his building's first floor to help to pay his mortgage. Now, his tenants are gone, having left in Sandy's brutal aftermath.
"Not only are we dealing with repairs, now we're dealing with the loss of rental income and carrying the full mortgage until we can clean up the area," he said.
When Sandy unleashed its deadly torrent of wind and water, Spangler and his family rode it out inside their home as river wash leaked through his first floor and raised anxieties about how much higher it would get.
A swollen Hudson River had expanded into his backyard. When it finally receded, the flood left an auburn-colored watermark on his basketball hoop backboard.
The hoop was about 7 feet tall.
Afterward, the dials on his electrical boxes filled with bubbling pockets of a brownish liquid that seemed to foreshadow the string of electrical problems that would follow across the region.
Not forgetting the lack of electricity after of Irene, Spangler had prepared for Sandy, purchasing a generator just days before it hit. After the storm, he ran electrical cables across the street to his neighbors' homes, padlocking the generator to his wrought iron stoop out of fear of looting.
"I'm sure there were people watching and waiting for me not to be near that generator," he said.
At the height of the crisis, Spangler said, police and fire officials told him to hide the machine at night because it would take them hours to respond to an incident in his neighborhood.
" 'We're just overstretched,' " he quoted authorities as saying. That triggered shades of vigilante justice across his neighborhood, though Jersey City police could not be immediately reached for comment regarding the claim.
"I have neighbors across the street who have firearms who told me, 'Don't worry about it,' " he said. " 'Just call us (if there's a problem) and we'll be right outside with a gun.' "
Preparing for lesser disasters
Sandy triggered massive flooding across the Northeast, yet the effect of the floods may have been especially foul in Jersey City. That's because the city maintains a combined sewer and rain drainage system, meaning floodwater also spewed from pipes, swirled into basements and probably contained raw sewage, according to accounts from local residents and city officials.
"This happened with Irene too," Jersey City mayoral spokeswoman Jennifer Morrill said. The sewage "couldn't flow out because the water was at its highest capacity. ... So when the water came into (people's basements), it wasn't just water."
But any sewage overflow that occurred was considered minimal, according to the head of Jersey City's Municipal Utilities Authority.
"Did it occur on an extensive basis? Absolutely not," Dan Becht said.
After paying a remediation company to sanitize his basement, Spangler disagreed. He and his neighbors point to the city's antiquated sewer system as a primary culprit.
"I had to get this whole area disinfected," he said, standing in his basement illuminated by floodlights.