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.
I was in Ocean City Thursday to research a story on some folks engaged in an epic insurance battle to get reimbursed for flood damage, and ran across a bunch of homes about to be, or in the process of being raised to meet new FEMA flood map elevations. Even though it's becoming more common - and should be even more common now that Gov. Christie has dedicated a portion of the federal money toward supplementing FEMA's $30,000 maximum Increased Cost of Compliance grants - it's still a startling and downright weird sight to behold. Took about torn asunder. This house was just being prepped for the big lift; this is Tom Jones of the Hauck House Movers, who are very busy these days.
Two famous music moguls with clubs in Atlantic City made their exits known this week, both blaming damage from Hurricane Sandy for their leaving Atlantic City. But were Jay-Z (40/40 Club) and Sammy Hagar (Sammy Hagar's Beach Bar) just using the old girl as their scapegoat? Their accounts were quickly challenged by spokespeople: At Tangers Outlet at the Walk, where 40/40 was located, the general manager basically called Jay-Z's people liars and slobs who mismanaged their club into oblivion, overtaken by casino nightclubs. The 40/40 club had not been open since the storm.
Over at Bally's, Katie Dougherty discounted Hagar's description, on his website, of total destruction of the former Van Halen rocker's cool beachfront bar, which hosted the Wailers last Memorial Day to kick off a lively season, and said it was purely financial reasons that led the casino to de-brand their Beach Bar.
It was a battle of the issued statements, and here they are for your perusal:
FU Sandy Beer from Flying Fish donates money for Sandy Relief (Blue Wave Printing Still the N.J. Champ for Biz SandyCharities)
Lots of people, and busineses, are trying to figure out how to raise and distribute money to help people (and businesses) rebuild from Hurricane Sandy (including First Late Mary Pat Christie, whose N.J. Sandy Relief fund has raised $32 million but not dispersed anything yet, see story here by Shannon Mullen of the Asbury Park Press). Flying Fish, always on the look out for a way to further Jersey-theme their product, created a hybrid wheat-pale ale that it called "Forever Unloved (F.U.) Sandy. I guess they mean Sandy will be forever unloved, but I keep thinking they mean New Jersey, which would be uncalled for. And I guess they mean to reference the hybrid hurricane-nor'easter character of Sandy by making their Sandy beer wheat-pale ale. In any case, the craft beer company announced that it was donating the $45,000 proceeds to Habitat for Humanity, Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund (See above), and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey, which is rebuilding shore-area habitat destroyed by the storm. That represents 100 percent of the proceeds from the beer, which sold out its 86 kegs.
Still champ of the small businesses turned philanthropic dynamo would still have to be the Blue Wave Printing Company of Toms River, which produced a line of "Restore the Shore" merchandise and immediately began making small and large donations, cash and gift cards, lumber supplies etc., very targeted and savvy strikes of good will. To date, and you can see the full list here, they have donated a total of $468,982. Maybe they should take over the Mary Pat fund.
I took this photo of the Ventnor Pier this weekend and only just noticed that it has the word "Home" scrawled into it.
ATLANTIC CITY – The big question of the evening was: Would they go there? Would Neil Young & Crazy Horse perform “Like a Hurricane” at a Hurricane Sandy benefit concert Thursday night at the Borgata.
The answer came after a 12-song set – played the good old-fashioned, rock-and-roll way with giant Fender Deluxe amps and Young on Fender Stratocaster guitars. After classics and new tracks from their latest album “Psychedelic Pill” came the lithe strains of the 1977 masterpiece that Young wrote not about an intense storm, but about his intense desire for a girl.
And the crowd went wild.
This is Christel Andersen, my neighbor, who like so many people in Ventnor and Ventnor Heights dragged her life to the curb, as another friend described it, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Not ready to totally declare the flooded contents of the first floor of her home (an apartment her mom lived in), she painted to the sign to shoo off scavengers and trash trucks. But eventually, the block long collection of furniture, clothing, photos, antiques, rugs, bedding and so much more will surely need to be let go of.
Anyone who went on the Ventnor Garden Tour this summer would know Christel's house, and her 68-year-old mom, because their house was on the way to a house officially on the tour, but the beautiful garden with the antique bicycles and her mom, a lovely woman with a Danish accent, stopped every garden tour trekker at an unofficial spot. So sad to see this way. Christel said her mom was staying elsewhere Sunday night, too much rearranging of her belongings, and anxiety over the loss. She and her children would remain upstairs, though at the moment they have no heat or hot water.
God Bless Dino's. Just like before Hurricane Irene, they were manning the Formica rolls and churning out subs pre-Sandy and vowing to stay open. It was kind of sad, and the talk was a lot about the late owner Leo Heintzelman, who vowed never to close, ever, and joyfully made subs during Irene, but who died just a month later.
Meanwhile, a lot of people were clearing out. Casinos were emptying. Gov. Christie was calling people who were hunkering down on the islands "stupid" and advising we all go watch football for a couple hours. I have to say, I know a lot of people around Ventnor and Margate who are planning to stay, on the theory that they can ride it out. Well, as they say, time will tell. A stream of cars headed out of town, but also into town for one last look before Sandy at that most vulnerable piece of Jersey Shore real estate: the tip of Longport, the one that stops at 11th Street because sometime a long time ago the waves swallowed up blocks one through ten. LONG LIVE 11th Street. Videos below. Please follow on twiiter @amysrosenberg.
Sandy in Ventnor at daybreak: Ocean Meets the Dunes UPDATE: Route 40 into Atlantic City shut down because of flooding
UPDATE: Route 40 headed into Atlantic City has been shut down already this morning due to flooding. This is usually the first road to flood during storms. All roads into Atlantic City and downbeach will be shut down at 4 p.m., when the mandatory evacuation of Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate, Longport goes into effect. Atlantic City is maintaining shelters for people who stay.
Morning and high tide coincided Sunday and while I woke up relieved to see the storm's track a bit north _ nothing against anybody up there _ it was sobering to walk out to the beach. The sky screams nor'easter inside of a hurricane, doesn't it? The frothy sea foam of the high tide can still be seen coming up into the walkway, newly fashioned by the Army Corps this summer, along with some monster dunes. The winds were gusting a bit, and the light had that pregnant with hurricane glow. One of my neighbors who had been planning to stay made other plans after seeing the ocean already all the way into the dunes. Of course, the tide will soon recede. And be back this evening for its next photo opportunity. Below is a video of the view, from Atlantic City to the pier in Ventnor. Feel free to follow me on twitter.com/amysrosenberg. Weather channel is on board with the E Street Scenario, with Sandy making landfall near Asbury Park with a double barrelled punch. Impressive.
So the Governor has just ordered mandatory evacuations for all barrier islands. Up until then, it was looking like maybe Atlantic City would not be evacuated, there was talk of setting up shelters inside the city and allowing casinos to stay open, but i guess Frankenstorm demands otherwise. For locals, here's an A.C. Press story detailing the city's evacuation plans. (Roads into A.C. will close at 4 p.m. Sunday, roads out will close when sustained winds reach 40 miles per hour.) Please follow on twitter @amysrosenberg
A general twitter feed for Sandy can be found here. I know last time, a lot of people stayed put and were vindicated as places people evacuated to got hit worse than the islands. Sandy doesn't seem worth messing with, I'd have to say. On a biike ride up the Boardwalk this morning, I only saw the casinos on the North end boarding up, Resorts, Showboat (That's the House of Blues with the Unwind, Relax suggestions) and Caesars a little bit, but I guess there's time. Revel seems particularly vulnerable out there on the edge of the island, all glass, that darned ball resting on its giant golf tee, but only time will tell how she holds up.