Six months post- Sandy, it's still tough to get a handle on the full extent of how Sandy has and will continue to change the Jersey shore as we know it. I stopped over at the Ventnor City Hall on some business this morning, and they are elbow-deep in preparing for the storm of money that will be flowing down from the feds, the state and the non-profits. The event was so unprecedented that it has taken a longer time than I think anyone really expected to even see a direct path to recovery in the future. Experiences are truly varied: some people seem to have made quick turnarounds and have figured out a way to get back quickly into damaged homes, others seem paralyzed by either insurance issues or indecision over how to rebuild. Once FEMA settles on its long term flood maps, the choices should be a lot clearer. Raise your home, don't raise your home. Pay higher insurance rates, or relocate. The fear is that people will start to walk away from damaged homes with no easy or affordable fix, and leave tax bases and populations _ and characters of these quirky barrier islands _ shadows of their former self. Towns like Brigantine and Ventnor have been thriving year round places for a long time and healthy summer destinations, and it seems hard to believe they will be anything but that in the near future, though in the not-so-near future, the debate will probably be pretty much moot as sea levels continue to rise.
In any cases: Gov. Christie, in addition to commemorating the six month anniversary on Morning Joe and announcing plans to distribute federal money through Community Development Block Grants, also issued a handy Sandy By the Numbers chart. Among the entries: $3.23 billion in insurance payouts; $718 million in Small Business Administration loans; $384 million in approved FEMA grants; 8 million cubic yards of debris removed from the streets; 130,000 people counseled through N.J. Hope and Healing; 38,000 e-mails or phone calls related to Sandy to Gov.'s constituent services; 28,000 donors to Mary Pat Christie's non-profit Sandy Relief Fund (with $34 million raised); 4,000 mold informational flyers or posters distributed (mold is bad; don't ignore it); 1,000 housing choice vouchers made available; 816 unemployed or National Guard members placed in temporary clean up jobs; 734 Sandy related tweets by @govchristie; 192 families being housed in FEMA trailers or at Fort Monmouth; 93 percent of total insurance claims considered closed (at least by FEMA).
It's a beast and quantifying it only begins to get at the recovery, or lack thereof, in many communities.