Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

20 weeks later, still a wreck

After arriving at a couple of reporting assignments with smeared mascara, I've learned that anytime I have to drive through the wreckage that was once among the most quaint Jersey Shore beach towns, I have to steel myself against what I'm about to see again . or I'll just completely lose it.

20 weeks later, still a wreck

The wreckage of a house opened wide by Sandy sits on the bay in Mantoloking.
The wreckage of a house opened wide by Sandy sits on the bay in Mantoloking.

MANTOLOKING - After arriving at a couple of reporting assignments with smeared mascara, I've learned that anytime I have to drive through the wreckage that was once among the most quaint Jersey Shore beach towns, I have to steel myself against what I'm about to see again . or I'll just completely lose it.

In 34 years of reporting the news, I've seen some horrific stuff, but nothing quite compares to the wholesale devastation wrought Oct. 29 by Superstorm Sandy. The scenes remain jaw-dropping nearly 20 weeks after the storm hit.

Along sections of Route 35 through Ortley Beach, Normandy Beach, up through Bay Head and back into this town that was once an enclave of cedar shake cottages lovingly passed down through generations of families and opulent beachfront estates one more grand then the next, the destruction is staggering.

Entire homes ripped from their foundations and slammed up against the house across the street. Others where the flooding and winds made the walls collapse into themselves like a house of cards. Rooftops blown off and deposited on the beach a half block way. Buildings so shredded they look as if they were blown to smithereens in an explosion.

Not far from where waves are breaking around the infamous roller coaster that slid off the Seaside Heights boardwalk and into the sea during the storm, it's like a theme park horror ride as drivers rubberneck through a section of Normandy Beach where a scorched landscape of smashed houses, burned trees and upended vehicles appears on both sides of the roadway. It looks like the after-attack scene from a science fiction disaster film.

But it's very real. And all of it the handiwork of Sandy, a storm so powerful and that casts a memory so ugly that people around here who are named Sandy are coming up with other derivatives for their moniker.

Left over from last summer, in the window of an old Mantoloking beach house that looks a little weather-beaten, a sign notes the place is "Celebrating 132 Summers." It makes one wonder whether there will be a 133rd year here . and whether there will be anything to celebrate.

It'll probably take years for homeowners, contractors, utility crews, and state and municipal authorities to return the area to come semblance of normalcy. But it's the kind of scene that will remain seared into the memory of anyone who sees it up close.

About this blog

Inquirer staff writer Amy S. Rosenberg has covered Philly police, city neighborhoods, Ed Rendell as mayor, the Jersey shore, Atlantic City, Miss America and the psychology of Eagles fans. She moved to Ventnor on July 3, 1995, which makes her a local, but not really.

Inquirer Staff Writer Jacqueline L. Urgo has spent every summer of her life at the Jersey Shore, and has lived there year-round for nearly 30 years, even fulfilling one of her bucket list dreams by once living in a house by the sea.

Since 1990, she has covered the waterfront for The Inquirer — from the Atlantic to the Delaware Bay shore — and some of the mainland in between. Along the way, she amassed an encyclopedic knowledge of this tear-it-down-and-build-it-back-up region, delving into the history and the hype of a place with a lot of unexpected stories to tell.

Reach The Downashore at arosenberg@phillynews.com.

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