New Jersey has 127 miles of Atlantic Ocean shoreline. Most of the beach destinations, including famed spots like Seaside Heights, Atlantic City and Wildwood, are on barrier islands that range in width from a few hundred feet to a couple of miles. The islands are so narrow that bay met ocean during the height of the storm, with water covering entire islands and making a mockery of the sandbags that some had placed around their homes.
Conditions were still too hazardous Wednesday to allow residents back on Long Beach Island, where cars were buried in 5 feet of sand, crews used heavy equipment to clear the roads and National Guard members went door-to-door, checking on residents who stayed. Residents were turned away from the barrier island just to the north, too. At the bridge, Toms River police Chief Michael Mastronardy told them homes were destroyed, power lines were down and the area smelled like natural gas. “It’s just bad,” he told a group of residents. “Right now we’re trying to save lives.”
Kathy Kirkof was hoping to get back to her home in the Ortley Beach section of Toms River, just north of Seaside Heights. “I can’t eat; it’s so frustrating. It’s the unknown. I don’t know what I’m going to go back to,” she said. Ortley Beach and Seaside Heights both took a heavy blow. A truck stuck out of a sinkhole, houses were on their sides and pushed into the main road and huge piles of sand stood blocks from the ocean. Police were making anyone still there clear out. “We have to get everyone off the island because there is total devastation,” said Seaside Heights police Chief Thomas Boyd.
Long Beach Island and its northern neighbor still lacked sewer service, water, gas and electricity. The stench of natural gas hung in the air, indicating broken lines. In Brick Township, as many as 10 homes caught fire during the storm when they were knocked from their foundations, rupturing gas lines, said Brick Township police Sgt. Keith Reinhard. Gas still jetted from the broken lines Wednesday, and about 25 fires burned.
One bright spot: Newer oceanfront homes built on 35-foot pilings did what they were supposed to do as upper floors remained intact, though many were damaged. About a dozen older homes were swept off their foundations, according to Long Beach Township Mayor Joe Mancini.
Some residents believe that beach replenishment projects that built up the dunes protected the southern end of Long Beach Island. “I felt pretty protected in my house because of all the beach replenishment,” said Will Randall-Goodwin, a 21-year-old Rutgers University student who stayed in his family’s home through the storm.
To the north, in Mantoloking, residents weren’t feeling so lucky.
Some of my cousins have a house in Mantoloking. I’d be surprised if there’s much left of it after seeing some of the photos from that island. In most of Mantoloking, the island is only about two blocks wide, with very little protecting the houses from either the ocean or the bay.
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