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Superstorm Sandy survivor: Here’s what Hurricane Harvey victims need to do right now

  • Five things to do ASAP, according to a Jersey Shore resident who rode out the 2012 Superstorm Sandy.
  • Tips on how to start your recovery from Hurricane Harvey.
  • There will be a huge amounts of insurance and federal aid claims, so file as soon as possible to get to the front of the line.

As Hurricane Harvey moves northeast, it leaves behind an historic level of damage from flooding. So what should people living in Hurricane Harvey's path do now to start their recovery?

One Superstorm Sandy survivor, Tony Kono, recounts his 2012 nightmare to help Gulf Coast residents rebuild.

Kono, a senior vice president with public relations firm JConnelly, and his wife Debbie rode out Sandy from their home in Brick Township, New Jersey. He lays out five things Harvey victims need to do as soon as possible to jump-start their own recovery efforts.

FOOD & SHELTER — NO, REALLY

Seek shelter and reliable food, then stick with it, Kono urged. It was days before stores were able to re-open.

"This sounds crazy in America in 2017, but my town had no electricity for many days and food and water was hard to come by," Kono said.

FEDERAL AID

Apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid as quickly as possible, says Kono. "Make sure you submit all your information into the FEMA system on-line ASAP," he added.

In Kono's case, FEMA came to his front door to collect information and provided an emergency check a few days later.

Don't expect all money to be available in the near-term. "It was years later until [FEMA] notified us that we qualified for a grant to raise our home," Kono says.

FILE INSURANCE CLAIMS

File any insurance claims as soon as possible to get in the beginning of the line, Kono said. "If you wait too long, the process of collecting can be slowed immensely."

Insurance companies are going to be inundated. "They are going to have thousands of claims, and processing them is going to be a huge job," Kono said.

DON'T RUSH

When it comes to rebuilding, patience and reputation are important. Kono suggests "don't rush into anything."

Staying local may be best, he recommends. "Try and use local contractors with a reputation you can verify."

WATCH OUT FOR SCAMS

Lastly, Kono warns there are going to be fraudsters out there.

"If promises of a quick rebuild sound too good to be true – they probably are," Kono warns.

Scammers will shake out eventually, he says, but you'd rather hire someone to get it done right the first time.

Click here to make a donation to the Red Cross to help people affected by Hurricane Harvey.

—By CNBC Producer Bree Kelly. Follow her on Twitter @Bree_Kelly