AFTERMATH: Jersey Shore Recovers After Hurricane Sandy
FEMA offices open; power returns; gas is being rationed; and a weary but hopeful population returns home
Storm-weary residents will try to return to their routines this weekend, picking up the pieces of their broken homes and battered boardwalks as they recover from the first-ever recorded hurricane to directly hit the Jersey Shore.
They face a future shaped by Hurricane Sandy after the "superstorm" washed away boardwalks in Belmar and Spring Lake; sent amusement rides, gazebos and beachfront businesses out to sea; felled trees throughout the state; and still leaves millions in the dark.
They also face sustained, painful three-hour gas lines that the Christie administration hopes to alleviate through gas rationing, and others hope will end once power fully returns. JCP&L reported 703,691 of its nearly 1.1 million customers remained in the dark as of about 4:45 p.m. on Friday, according to its outage map.
A system of gas dispensation is set to begin Saturday, affecting residents of Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Monmouth, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren. Plates containing an even number, as their final numerical digit, can fill up on even numbered days of the month. Plates containing an odd number as their final numerical digit can fill up on odd numbered days of the month.
Specialized or vanity plates, or those not displaying any numbers, will be considered odd-numbered plates.
State Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R Monmouth, plans to introduce legislation requiring gas stations to have emergency power generators on standby in case of power outages, such as those caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Handlin said towns are forced to place their "already-stretched police at stations to handle physical altercations" over gasoline.
Some of these lines, she said, are over a mile long, and include not only cars, but people carrying empty gas cans wanting to fill up the empty tanks in their generators and power tools. "This situation is not only adding to the economic devastation from the storm, but [it's also] putting lives in danger," she said.
At the Jersey Shore, gone are some of the fabled seaside haunts, such as Donovan's Reef in Sea Bright; as well as some of its iconic figures, such as the roller coaster in Seaside Heights, and chunks of the Martell's pier in Point Beach, as well as the fishing pier in Ocean Grove.
The viciousness of this storm left so many homes in ruins, forcing police officers and national guardsmen and women to stand watch over the state's bucolic beach communities. Entering parts of Sea Bright and Long Beach Island required an escort. Not having an escort means you could be arrested.
On Thursday and Friday, aerial video and photography of Mantoloking continued to show the ocean breaching into the Barnegat Bay, splitting the barrier island in half. Amid reports of "major gas leaks," following Sandy, officials with New Jersey Natural Gas announced they are shutting off the natural gas infrastructure that serves Long Beach Island, as well as other hurricane-damaged barrier islands south of Point Pleasant Beach to Seaside Heights.
FEMA offices are soon supposed to open in every county affected by the storm. In Brick, Governor Christie appeared Friday afternoon to help open a FEMA Storm Relief Center at Drum Point Elementary school.
The FEMA site is minutes away from some of the township neighborhoods hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, including the Shore Acres, Cherry Quay and Baywood sections.
“The destruction the lieutenant governor and I have seen … is just unfathomable,” said Christie. “I’ve driven on Route 35 since I was coming to the shore with my parents as a young child. And you just can’t recognize the place. It is heartbreaking."
Some communities that were nearly washed away by Hurricane Sandy finally began to allow people to come back Friday. Their return, in many cases, was far from joyous.
Stafford Township ran shuttle buses from select points for residents to get into Beach Haven West, recover what they could carry and get out. Debris was strewn in the roadways, with possible wires in the road. There were boats and personal watercraft everywhere.
On the bayfront at Jennifer Lane, the Coyne family was piling up the contents of their first floor at the curb. Dozens of large trash bags, deck furniture and exercise equipment all were going out. They also lost their two cars.
Mike Coyne said that, by the time his wife and daughter went to leave, it was too late to get out. "Then water came in and was to the ceiling of my ground level," he said.
"When Sandy came in, I saw it come right at me," he said pointing to the southeast.
In Atlantic City, an electrician who recently moved there from Brooklyn agreed it was important to have casinos reopen, but he didn't want to see the return of the industry come on the backs of the city's residents and taxpayers.
"I haven't had power since Tuesday," said the Atlantic City resident. "We still have no lights. ... Are we going to be put on the backburner? I understand they want the casinos to reopen, but what about the people who live here?"