For some Jersey Shore residents, blizzard flooding was the “worst ever”
While many New Jerseyans spent Sunday shoveling snow, some South Jersey residents were dealing with the aftermath of record-high flooding brought on by the blizzard.
“It was the worst I’ve ever seen it,” said Joe Stella, a longtime resident of West Wildwood. “Once the bulkhead gave out across the street, it was 8-, 12-foot waves breaking right in here. It was horrible.”
A sleepy town of about 800 homes, West Wildwood sustained serious flood damage from the back bay, where rising water and powerful winds blew a hole in the town’s protective bulkhead.
On Monday morning, residents were raking debris out of their front yards and assessing the damage to their homes, many of which took on water.
“I was in Seaside [Heights] the day after [Superstorm] Sandy, and this looks like that then, with the dirt on the roads and the damage,” said Cornelius Maxwell, deputy mayor of West Wildwood.
“It’s not devastating but we took a hard hit.”
Maxwell said crews rescued about 60 residents during the storm on Saturday. Local officials estimated that damage could cost the town around $1 million in repairs, which Maxwell hoped the state or federal government would help cover.
Cape May, Stone Harbor, and Ocean City saw record flooding, while North Wildwood’s western side sustained serious flooding. Part of a bulkhead protecting Atlantic City’s South Inlet section was damaged.
Other areas of the Shore were spared — for now.
The Ortley Beach section of Toms River, which was devastated by Superstorm Sandy, withstood the storm surge thanks to the sand dunes the town built up on the beach.
Robert Lee, who lives two blocks from the ocean, said he’s worried that the storm eroded the sand barricades.
“It’s right up to the boardwalk. If we get a big storm, this boardwalk will be gone. It’s about time these people who are holding up rebuilding these dunes sign the papers that they need to, do the release, so we can get these rebuilt.
“Otherwise. we’re going to get flooded again. It’s just a matter of time.”
Lee’s wife, Kitty, said it’s emotionally draining.
“We had to leave for a year so they could tear our old house down and build a new one. We couldn’t go through that again,” she said. “We seriously thought of leaving, but we really love it here, and we just want them to do something.”
More temporary dunes will be built, said Mayor Tom Kelaher.
“You have to understand it’s a stopgap temporary measure, though, because the next time it happens we’ll lose the sand again,” he said. “And that’s going keep happening until the people sign the easements to allow the Army Corps of Engineers to come in and do the beach replenishment and dune enhancement.”
Protective dunes have not gone up in some areas along the Shore because of litigation by some towns and residents. Some say they don’t wish to have their view of the ocean interrupted, while others say the protections that are in place are sufficient.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, along with Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, was dispatched by Gov. Chris Christie Monday to assess damages in affected towns including Ortley Beach, Holgate, Stone Harbor, and North Wildwood.
Martin said he’ll meet with the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss protective dunes in parts of towns where some homeowners have not granted easements.
“Maybe we can’t get all the towns going given the lawsuits we have going on currently with Point Pleasant Beach and Bay Head, but there’s a lot of properties we do have,” he said. “How can we start some segment of these beaches in a very short term and then build on it from there?”
State Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Atlantic, has asked that Christie seek federal disaster relief aid for Cape May and Cumberland Counties after the weekend snow and flooding.
But a threshold must be met before requesting federal aid, Guadagno said.”We have our people out contacting the local municipalities,” she said, enumerating some of the questions they will pose. “What are your damages to the infrastructure? What is your snow cost? Are you passing it up to you local office of emergency management? And is that local OEM passing it on to us so that we can meet our state threshold of about $12 million worth of damages? And then each county needs to meet a threshold.”
Christie, who spent the duration of the storm in New Jersey, said he was “pleased that [Monday] has been such a productive day for businesses and citizens in New Jersey only 48 hours after one of our largest snowstorms in the last six years.
“I commend the Department of Transportation for clearing our roads so quickly and effectively,” he said in a statement. “I also commend NJ Transit for helping so many commuters to get to work without incident.”
The governor has since returned to the campaign trail in New Hampshire.