NEW YORK - Danette Rivera feels lucky to be alive. She was stuck in the basement of her Woodside, Queens, home during last week's storm with no way out as the water quickly rose.
"I thought I was going to die, I almost knew I was going to die because I thought there was no way to get out of my situation," Rivera said. "I was about to drown in my basement."
The bruises still on her arms are constant reminders of the painful and frightening, yet successful attempts by her son to pull her out of the basement window. Rivera is grateful for her life but unprepared for the financial struggles that may come.
"I spoke to FEMA, they gave me several numbers to call and they applied for funding," Rivera said, "told to wait up to 10 days until someone will contact me to come and inspect."
Rivera joined residents across the borough on Friday at a new FEMA disaster recovery center at Queens College. It's one of six in the tristate area now open to help New Yorkers impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Ida.
Nearby, personal belongings are still scattered in front of many Flushing homes, an area hit particularly hard.
"I went downstairs, I turned on the light in the basement and that's when I started seeing the water had risen from the toilet and the bathtub," Flushing resident Alice Klein said. "Within like seconds the thing just started pouring."
She discovered the FEMA center while riding by on her bike and said insurance most likely won't cover her damages.
"It doesn't look hopeful right now. Apply for FEMA and hope for the best and maybe do a DIY project," Klein said.
The FEMA center will be open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day until further notice. For more information, visit the FEMA app on your phone or check out DisasterAssistance.gov.
New York City residents can visit nyc.gov/ida or call 311.