LONG BEACH, N.Y. – Forget FEMA, insurance adjusters and construction cleanups. Some of the people hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy are hoping one thing this week answers their prayers: a $425 million Powerball jackpot.
Wednesday night's drawing is one of the biggest multistate lottery takes in U.S. history, and the high hopes for walking away with multimillion-dollar checks extended to some New York and New Jersey communities hardest hit by last month's storm. Many residents said that if they won, they'd even give back to the recovery effort.
With so much money in the jackpot, it would be particularly special if several victims of the storm could split the winnings, said Long Beach, N.Y., retiree Raymond Parker.
"A lot of people should win, not just one," he said at a stationery store in Long Beach where he frequently buys lottery tickets. He said his plan was to stick with his usual $4 purchase of two Powerball tickets and that if he won, he'd give money to his nieces and nephews to pay for their college educations donate to the Red Cross as thanks for their relief efforts in Long Beach.
Like many in his town, the 67-year-old Parker said his car was destroyed by rising floodwaters during the storm; the lobby of his high-rise apartment building was also flooded and he was without power for more than a week.
But he's not contemplating buying a new car if he wins.
"I'd hire a chauffeur to take me around," he joked.
Wednesday's jackpot was the record for a Powerball drawing, said Christy Calicchia, a spokeswoman for the New York State Lottery. Powerball sells tickets in 42 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The previous high for a Powerball drawing was in 2006, when eight Nebraska workers shared a $365 million jackpot, she said.
Last January, Powerball officials doubled the price of tickets to $2, but also increased the minimum jackpot from $20 million to $40 million, Calicchia said.
John Scaduto, a sous chef who lost his job when the Oakdale, N.Y., restaurant where he works was flooded, dreams of buying his own eatery if the winning numbers go his way. "I already have over $100 worth" of tickets, he said while stopping at a Long Beach 7-11 for lunch on Monday. He also said if he became a millionaire he would like to help his damaged community.
"I would try to do what I can to help out a little bit," he said.
Nearly everyone in line to buy Powerball tickets in the flood-ravaged northern New Jersey town of Little Ferry had a response similar to Scaduto's.
"Help rebuild the Jersey Shore; I grew up there, and it's devastating," said Dan O'Neill of Blairstown, N.J., a contractor working to help a friend gut his flood-damaged home. "It's part of being from New Jersey, it's part of our history, and it's gone," O'Neill said of the shore, adding that if he won the jackpot, he'd donate to charities that were helping rebuild.
"Win that kind of money, they'd get a big chunk of that money," he said.
Ruben Seda, 74, said his long-planned retirement to his native Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, was now delayed because of expensive damage to his Little Ferry home. Nevertheless, he said he'd use any lottery winnings to help those who helped him after Superstorm Sandy.
"Help everybody, give to charities and the church," Seda said. "I lost everything, my furniture, my food ... but I survive. So, if I hit some money, it'd be a big help."
The U.S. record for any lottery jackpot was set in April, when the Mega Millions drawing paid out $656 million on three winning ticket holders from Illinois, Maryland and Kansas.
Associated Press writer Samantha Henry in Little Ferry, N.J., contributed to this report.