News Column

Obama, Christie, Calculate, Survey 'Sandy' Aftermath

Oct. 31, 2012 10:00PM

Hoa Nguyen, The Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville, N.J.

Chris Christie

One day after riding out one of the most destructive storms to hit the East Coast, South Jersey residents faced a devastating scene from one end of the shoreline to the other.

The statewide devastation also has prompted President Barack Obama to join Gov. Chris Christie in New Jersey Wednesday to survey the damage, officials said.

The president already has declared a major disaster in eight counties: Atlantic, Cape May, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean and Union.

That means municipalities, businesses and individuals will be able to receive federal aid, including grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to recover from the effects of the disaster.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration has been working with other agencies to help bring supplies to affected communities as well as assessing damage in other counties, such as Cumberland, to determine whether they qualify for disaster aid, spokeswoman Phyllis Deroian said.

Officials Tuesday were still making plans on how people would be able to apply for the aid.

"We're working here and on the ground," she said of FEMA crews. "It's going to be a significant number of people."

The New Jersey National Guard also mobilized 4,000 troops and a Blackhawk helicopter ready to assist in post-storm damage assessment, Brig. General Michael Cunniff said.

Access to barrier islands remained blocked for a second consecutive day, which closed off some of the state's most treasured resorts, including Atlantic City and Ocean City.

Ocean County was among the hardest hit with the ocean meeting the bay on Long Beach Island.

Emergency responders were performing search-and-rescue in several communities, including Stafford Township.

In Cape May and Atlantic counties, several seaside resorts, including Atlantic City and Ocean City, remained inaccessible.

The governor met with Cape May County mayors and Avalon emergency management officials after touring Belmar in Monmouth County. After surveying the region by helicopter, Christie said Ocean City suffered some of the most significant damage. The governor also said Long Beach Island and Seaside Heights had more devastation than he had ever seen before.

"The entire Seaside Heights boardwalk is gone," he said.

Returning residents to the barrier islands would require a coordinated effort, the governor said.

"I'm not going to authorize any re-entry into the barrier islands until further notice," Christie said.

In Atlantic County, the West Atlantic City section of Egg Harbor Township was among the hardest hit areas, according to township Mayor Sonny McCullough, who said there didn't appear to be casualties.

"There are houses that are lifted off the foundation, roofs are down, cars are under water," he said.

Officials said they would wait until the water receded before helping to clear the debris.

"The financial damage is overwhelming for people," McCullough said.

On Black Horse Pike, a house boat floated inland and sat stranded in the middle of the road.

"That was the boat that took out my porch," George Broomsmith, 61, of Egg Harbor Township, said.

Broomsmith and his neighbor Bill Warren, 46, took shelter in their home during the storm Monday night, marveling as floodwaters lapped the porch of his home, rising high enough for him to use his kayak to navigate around the roads of his neighborhood.

"I saw four floating docks, 4 feet of water in the street," he said. "The wind was howling and pushing everything to my house."

Other residents who lived near the water took shelter in higher ground, but when they returned, found extensive water damage to their homes.

"Unreal," Tom Rehr, 63, of Absecon, said of the mess he found in his garage. "It all floated around."

Rehr and his wife found all of their belongings on the first floor of their home soaked.

"It has never come up this high," Mary Rehr said. "It's terrible."

The couple tried to ride out the storm but left as the tide reached their doorway.

"When you live by the water, you take your chances," she said.

In Somers Point, Annette and Glenn Todd left their home due to the rising tide but left a sump pump running, which helped to keep their home dry, unlike their neighbors who experienced extensive damage.

"If the electricity didn't stay on, we would have been done in," Annette Todd, 52, said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.)

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