MILFORD -- The unforgiving surge from Superstorm Sandy -- about the highest in anyone's memory -- filled the tidy bungalow at 54 Milford Point Road with seawater, just as it did with so many other coastal Connecticut homes last October.
A year later, the battered bungalow looks pretty much the same as it did one day after the storm, and Charlotte Schmid, who owns the home, is both heartbroken and frustrated.
While standing on what's left of her back deck Friday as the sun sank low in the western sky, it was easy to see why Schmid isn't cutting her losses, selling out and moving on.
The eye is drawn to the marsh known as the Charles E. Wheeler Wildlife Area, a view seemingly out of a national park postcard.
What remains terrifying for Schmid, who lives with her sister, Bibi, is the fear of the unknown: When will they get a settlement? Will there be any Sandy aid left for them?
And then, of course, there's the cost of jacking up and repairing the home, which won't be entirely covered by an aid or flood settlement package. Schmid has already been told by an engineer that he will have to sink pilings 40 feet down into the glacial till beneath the house to find bedrock, a costly operation.
"You know, before Sandy hit, we just got the house all fixed up from Irene," Schmid said, her voice quivering. "It looked really nice."
Those memories aren't so easy to swallow anymore.
"I hate even coming here now," Schmid said as she walked through the punished shell of her home.
Milford officials estimate there are 200 to 250 local families, people just like Schmid and her sister, who are still displaced from their homes.
All of the declarations of Sandy aid from government officials -- from the president on down -- have left Schmid with a pile of seemingly useless, and endless, paperwork.
"The government centers that just opened up (last Thursday) to assist people sound really good," she said. "All they're doing is hiring people to scan documents -- documents that I've already sent to them."
What's more, just because her house is uninhabitable doesn't mean it's not costing her plenty.
Schmid still pays an annual $5,000 flood insurance premium, a $2,000 home insurance premium and another $6,000 in property taxes. This is in addition to the $700 she's paying now for a small apartment in West Haven.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency would have picked up the cost of her rent, but it's not doing so because of a quirk in the rules, Schmid said.
"I tried to do the right thing and save the government money, but FEMA says that I'm not spending enough for the apartment, so they're not paying for it," said Schmid, a case worker for the state Department of Children and Families.
Sometimes, the snowball effect of natural disasters is the worst part.
Schmid moved most of the belongings from her house on the day after the February blizzard. Then in August, the dog she shared with her sister died.
And just when it looked like the sisters were making progress on getting a settlement and some aid, the federal government shutdown put the brakes on everything.
"(U.S. Rep.) Rosa DeLauro was helping us out, but then the shutdown hit and she had other things to worry about," Schmid said. "And I'm not alone. There are people all over Milford in my predicament."