The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 29, 2012

UPDATED: Joplin native preparing to wait out Hurricane Sandy

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni

Jessilyn Nokes Westhoff, Danbury, Conn.

4:13 p.m. — By late afternoon, Jessilyn Westhoff reported that "the weather has

picked up a little, mostly windy, but nothing too eventful to report

yet." She was hoping for the best as she stayed inside with her newly

adopted baby, Joshua.

"We got the most important things first — bottled water and formula

powder! We don't want a hungry and unhappy baby if we get stuck at

home without power," she said.


Andy Laas, Silver Springs, Md.

4:05 p.m. — Andy Laas, a Joplin native now living in Silver Spring, Md., took his son outside Monday afternoon to check their rain gauge.

“It said 3 inches,” Laas reported. “We’re OK at the moment. It’s raining and 46 degrees. The next couple of hours will be important.”

Laas, who lives about nine miles north of the White House, was home with his children because his office — a federal one — and schools were among the many closings in the Washington, D.C. area. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Service also was closed.

His mother, Virginia Laasl lives in Joplin and checked in on his well-being as Hurricane Sandy began to pound the East Coast.

“Everything is closed until Wednesday, and I have been able to work from home,” her son said. That’s because so far, there is power.

“We still have power, but I was banking on it going out last night and to not get it back on until Thursday,” Laas said. “They are saying the heaviest winds — sustained up to 60 miles per hour — will be around 5 p.m. tonight. It’s just a wait-and-see.”

His family is high enough in elevation and far enough from any major water source that they are not in an evacuation zone.

“I like to think we’re pretty well situated for this since all the way back to 9-11 there has been disaster preparedness,” he said.


Cary Fuller, Manhattan, NY.

1:10 p.m. — Cary Fuller, a 2003 graduate of Joplin High School, lives in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, NY, two blocks from the Hudson River.

Although she is not directly in the evacuation zone, she and her roommate felt it would be smart to get to higher ground.

“We’ve packed an overnight bag and have gone further into Manhattan to stay with friends,” she said. “It’s been like a 24-hour slumber party.”

Fuller, the daughter of Steve and Peggy Fuller of Joplin, works as a fashion editor at Ralph Lauren. She reported in a phone interview with the Globe that the city is totally shut down.

“I went for a run earlier. The storm hasn’t hit New York yet, so people are out and about, but it’s very quiet. All the major stores are closed, the stock exchange is closed, schools, public transport — they’re even closing the bridges, so anyone who might want to leave the city now is unable to do so. Everyone’s just kind of riding out.”

Her office is closed today and most likely will be tomorrow.

“After the blizzard of 2010 and his inadequate response that was derided by a lot of people in the city, Mayor Bloomberg has gone out of his way to prepare the city as much as possible before disaster hits, calling for evacuations, calling for a state of emergency. We prepare for the worst, hope for the best,” Fuller said.

She anticipates a lot more damage and bad weather than Hurricane Irene handed out — tonight, in particular.

Fuller’s mother has been involved in tornado recovery in Joplin

“So our family is no stranger to weather-related emergencies,” her daughter said. “I’m sure as any Missourian would do, I’m just taking the precautions that I need and just riding it out.”


Laura Washburn, Pittsburg, Kan.

12:11 p.m. — Pittsburg State University professor Laura Washburn, who was born and raised in Virginia Beach, Va., hasn’t lived there since the 1980s, but many other members of her family still do and she returns two or three times a year to visit.

Washburn has been monitoring the news and staying in touch with her family as Hurricane Sandy gathers strength along the east coast. The City of Virginia Beach has been providing residents with updates via its website, with the most recent one stating, “The duration of Sandy continues to make this storm a significant event. Deteriorating weather conditions will stretch into the new work week, impacting the city through Tuesday early morning. The most intense period of the storm is projected to last through Monday evening.”

Virginia Beach city officials said Atlantic wave height projection has reached the predicted 15 foot level, with bay wave height nearing 8 feet.

“I find TV coverage of hurricanes frustrating in the Midwest. They’ll be talking about what’s ‘going’ to happen in New York City non-stop while I can see a giant cloud right over the Virginia coast. So I call and check in with my family,” Washburn said.

So far, so good, Washburn said of her family’s safety: Her mother reported they were getting wind and rain and didn’t seem worried, and her father assured her he is 15 feet above sea level so he isn’t worried, either.

“I find tornadoes a lot more frightening in general than hurricanes, though I know the risk for damage is high sometimes,” Washburn said.

Jessilyn Nokes Westhoff, Danbury, Conn.

12:08 p.m. — Jessilyn Nokes Westhoff grew up in Pittsburg and moved to Danbury, Conn., in 2009 to join her husband, Michael Westhoff, who had lived there since 2004.

“Right now, the wind and rain are starting to pick up,” she said Monday morning from her home. “It’s supposed to get worse this afternoon and intensify this evening.”

They have received no evacuation orders since they are inland, but the governor of Connecticut has ordered people to stay off of the streets.

The Westhoffs went through Hurricane Irene in August 2011 so have experience in reaction and protocol, but, Jessilyn Westhoff said, “it was much more mild,” than what she anticipates Hurricane Sandy to be.

Diann Mazurek, Pittsburg, Kan. and Ben Mazurek, New York

12:06 p.m. — Diann Mazurek is a Pittsburg mother who is keeping her eye on weather reports and her cell phone. Her son, Ben, lives in Manhattan, NY.

Residents and emergency management officials there, along with those in Connecticut, Delaware, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia are bracing for the impact of Hurricane Sandy.

 In advance of the hurricane’s expected landfall, residents in some areas have been ordered to evacuate, with many seeking refuge in shelters. Mass transit systems have ground to a halt. But Mazurek isn’t too worried yet.

“We text and call frequently,” Mazurek said Monday morning. “He is not in any danger right now.”

They spoke yesterday by phone, and Ben told his mother the subway tunnels would be closed at 7 p.m. last night. A text exchange between mother and son today indicated Ben is calm and not worried.

“He has been through a tornado, earthquake and hurricane since he’s been there,” his mother said. “He believes the news coverage is overdone.”

 Her son moved there in 2010 to attend the New York Conservatory of Dramatic Arts, graduated in May and is pursuing an acting career. His mother said he has no plans to relocate at this time.

“I am not really worried but will continue to check in with him and I know he will let me know if there is anything major going on,” Diann Mazurek said. “I trust him to follow evacuation or other precautions that will be indicated.”