After Sandy: the Wildwoods

    The second in a series about how shore towns are faring in the wake of one of the worst storms to ever hit the Jersey Shore.

    To see the worst of Sandy’s damage in the Wildwoods, go to West Wildwood. This .25 sq.-mi. island town sits on the Richardson and Grassy Sounds, and floods in storms that don’t have “Hurricane” or “Super” in their titles.

    But many houses were spared because the island has adapted protections against regular flooding. Most of the older homes are one-story bungalows that have been raised onto concrete or cinder block bases, their driveways ramping up to the higher front door level. New homes have garages on the first floor, and it’s on those garages that you can see water lines going up two to three feet. Reeds, too, still cling to fences, and a destroyed dock is on a bay-side beach near the town’s one playground.

    Fortunately, though, says John Sicliano, executive director and CFO of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism and Development Authority, the Wildwoods faired relatively well. The bulk of the island was protected from ocean-front storm flooding by it’s beach, which in some spots is 2,000 feet wide at high tide.

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    “People complain sometimes about the beach, but how far it takes to get to the water was our saving grace,” he said.

    Flooding happened, for the most part, in normal spots: along Atlantic and Pacific Avenues in Wildwood, and their drainage systems are affected by tides. When a storm – any storm – hits at high tide, the water has nowhere to go, and that was the case with Sandy, which was super charged by multiple full moon high tides.

    Except for some blown down signs, muck deposited on Morey’s boardwalk piers, and damage to a bulkhead on the south end, the Wildwood boardwalk made it through just fine. It looks deserted now, says Sicliano, because the boardwalk looks this way in December every year, save for a few events at the Convention Center through December 21.

    The only water damage in the Wildwoods Convention Center, which has its own dunes wrapping around the building, was through the boardwalk-side emergency door. Rain blew through a gap in one of the doors and soaked the carpets in the offices of the building, but events still went on the weekend after the storm.

    The Angelsea section of North Wildwood is a bit of a different story. There, water breached the sea wall, and many homes flooded. When I visited the week after the storm, many homes had first floor trash and carpets out on the lawns to dry or curbs for trash. Businesses flooded too, some having their entire kitchens destroyed. Sicliano anticipates, though, that they’ll be ready for summer 2013, if not sooner.


    Jen A. Miller writes the Down the Shore with Jen blog for Jen is author of The Jersey Shore: Atlantic City to Cape May, which is now in its second edition.

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