A doleful day appropriate for the occasion

On the six-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which struck the New Jersey Shore on Oct. 29, 2012, with crippling force, creating an historic level of damage, the cool rainy weather and choppy seas on Monday served as a grim reminder of the infamous hurricane.

Sandy was the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history. It is also the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, with winds that spanned 1,100 miles and killed 285 people across seven countries. In the U.S., damage spanned seven states. So vast and long-lived was the storm, officials had days beforehand to prepare. Tens of thousands of residents in the state’s four shore counties – Atlantic, Cape May, Monmouth and Ocean – were evacuated to higher ground.

But even with days of notice about the approach, there was probably no way to adequately prepare for such a monster storm.

When it finally made landfall on the U.S. mainland at Brigantine, New Jersey, it brought 80 mph winds that rushed massive walls of waves and flooding tides all along the 127-mile Jersey Shore.

Hardest hit were areas on the northern side of the eye wall – mainly beach communities in Ocean and Monmouth Counties. Entire communities in places like Mantoloking and Ortley Beach were all but washed away. Officials say the storm caused more than $38 billion in damage in New Jersey alone.

Destruction in some places was so vast, that a full six months afterward, many homes that washed into the Barnegat Bay in Mantoloking still remain there like big, sand-bar trapped barges. In other spots, big piles of rubble that were once beach mansions remain to be carted away to a landfill. To prevent looting, the police in Mantoloking still won’t allow anyone to park along the town’s side streets and get out and walk around.

At the height of the storm, 2.6 million customers were without power for a weather event nicknamed “Frankenstorm” by forecasters, since it fell so close to Halloween and brought with it so much damage and destruction and a round of freezing temperatures and snow before it finally moved out of the region. When it was over, 346,000 homes and businesses were either damaged or destroyed in New Jersey. Boardwalks up and down the coast were mangled, beaches were decimated, bridges and roads ruined.

Sandy has been a costly disaster:

In the aftermath, those most affected by Sandy have clamored for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s assistance fund. More than 260,000 people have contacted FEMA for assistance. The agency has completed 125,344 housing inspections and 87,924 visits have been made to disaster recovery centers FEMA has set up in key locations along the eastern seaboard. Currently nine centers remain open to assist storm survivors, according to Robin Smith, a FEMA spokeswoman.

So far, $384 million in FEMA grants have been approved for individuals and household and $718 million in Small Business Administration disaster loans have been approved for homeowners, renters, and businesses. Meanwhile $245 million has been approved in FEMA public assistance grants for communities and non-profit organizations that serve the public, Smith said.

The deadline to file cliams with FEMA and the Small Business Administration is May 1.