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Returning home after Superstorm Sandy: phases in the return-entry process


Despite current advances in research related to return-entry process following disasters, the need to understand this process from the perspective of the returnees remains. This exploratory study examines the return-entry experience of residents returning home after Superstorm Sandy. Specifically, this study aims to identify patterns in the return experiences of residents following the ending of the evacuation order and gain insight into the temporal dimensions of the activities and decisions made following disasters. A series of six focus groups were conducted with 28 participants from communities in Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey. A qualitative grounded theory approach of focus group transcripts revealed three different phases: (1) initiation and planning, (2) traveling home, and (3) arriving home. Understanding the actions and perspectives of returnees within each phase provides greater insight into the experiences of returnees during this critical time in the early disaster recovery process.

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This study was funded by the National Science Foundation Award #1638311 CRISP Type 2/Collaborative Research: Critical Transitions in the Resilience and Recovery of Interdependent Social and Physical Networks. The authors would like to extend sincere gratitude to the Salvation Army and the Ocean County Long-Term Recovery Group for graciously helping us recruit participants for this study and securing locations to conduct the focus groups. We thank the 28 participants who openly shared their experiences with us, and we admire their tenacity and resilience throughout the recovery process. Finally, we thank Jackie “Grandmom” Sahrhage for her hospitality as we prepared for the focus group interviews.

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Correspondence to Laura Siebeneck.

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Siebeneck, L., Schumann, R., Kuenanz, B. et al. Returning home after Superstorm Sandy: phases in the return-entry process. Nat Hazards 101, 195–215 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-020-03869-1

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  • Return-entry
  • Superstorm Sandy
  • Recovery
  • Return phases
  • New Jersey