View of verdant mounts with a clouded sky casting shadows on the land.

Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo © Carl & Peggy Backes.

Superstorm Sandy was certainly one of the worst natural disasters to befall America’s East Coast, and as a New Orleans native – who has a deep appreciation for the fickle temperament of Mother Nature – I’ve definitely been remiss in not mentioning it on my blog before now. With Hurricane Katrina and its long-lasting destruction never far from my mind, I’m especially horrified by what East Coast denizens have had to endure over these past couple of weeks. After all, I surely wouldn’t wish such fear, uncertainty, inconvenience, and tragedy on anyone – and I hope that life soon returns to normal for my fellow Americans in the Eastern states.

The only reason that it took me so long to mention the storm is that, as I shared in a recent post, my husband, Dan, was unfortunately in the hospital when Sandy was making headlines, and my mind was understandably focused on him at the time. In fact, I avoided watching the news for about a week straight – worry over him was stressful enough. But now that he’s home, and luckily on the mend, I’m better able to focus on news items that I might have missed, including the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Since the storm descended upon New York, New Jersey, and other East Coast states, many Americans have tried to lend a hand – donating money, goods, and even their time to help those that were displaced and otherwise negatively affected by the already legendary superstorm. Still, East Coast residents, homes, and businesses weren’t the only entities hit hard by Sandy. Nearly 70 national parks, from North Carolina to Maine, were also damaged by the superstorm’s harsh winds, rain, snow, and tidal surge. According to the National Park Foundation (1201 Eye Street NW, Suite 550B, Washington, DC 20005, 202/354-6460), “Roads have washed away, buildings damaged, ecosystems have been tragically impacted, and historic sites have been threatened. In fact, the national parks of New York Harbor were hit especially hard, including Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, which each suffered extensive flood damage.”

Even the Blue Ridge Parkway (pictured above), which I recently highlighted in a three-part series about the Great Smoky Mountains, was adversely affected by Sandy. In fact, the superstorm brought snow, rain, and extreme wind to the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina, forcing the closure of most sections of the Parkway. Until cleanup is completed, the National Park Service (NPS) has advised motorists against traveling along this route.

Unfortunately, Sandy isn’t the only natural disaster that’s recently impacted America’s national parks. Last month, for instance, wildfires consumed about 670 acres of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

So, if you’re still looking to help out the East Coast, consider making a donation to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America’s national parks. Even a small amount will go a long way to help the cause, especially with potential budget cuts on the horizon.

While you’re at it, check out the Park Service’s response to Superstorm Sandy on Facebook, and consider visiting your nearest national park this weekend, in celebration of Veterans Day. As NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis has said, “National parks preserve places that commemorate our country’s collective heritage – our ideals, our majestic lands, our sacred sites, our patriotic icons – which our military has defended through the years. We are grateful for the service and sacrifice of military members, past and present, and honored to tell their story at many of our national parks.”

In fact, many NPS units, from frontier forts to Civil War battlefields, have direct links to the military, and several plan to commemorate Veterans Day with special events, such as evening candlelight tours of Vicksburg National Cemetery and a presentation about the African American Civil War experience at Natchez National Historical Park. As a bonus, all parks that charge an entrance fee will be free to visit from Saturday, November 10, through Monday, November 12 – the last fee-free weekend of 2012. So, on behalf of all those who serve and have served in the United States military, Happy Veterans Day!