Ocean City breathes a sigh after Irene

OCEAN CITY, NJ – Ocean City’s boardwalk was eerily quiet on Sunday for what would have normally been one of the most bustling weekends of the year for the family-friendly destination.

The throngs departed Thursday and Friday, under orders from state and local emergency management officials who feared that the onslaught of Hurricane Irene could have become much worse than it eventually did.

Storefronts and homes along the boardwalk were braced with plywood and sandbars, to protect against potential storm surges and high wind, but the area held up fairly well.

Still, Frank Donato, Coordinator for Ocean City’s Office of Emergency Management, urged caution for anyone planning to return to the area.

“Ocean City is accessible, but we remain under a coastal flood warning,” he said. “We encourage people, if they are going to enter into Ocean City, to continue to use caution while driving through the community.”

Irene has moved on, but she’s littered the area with hazards in her wake. Tidal flooding is a concern and lingering high winds from Hurricane Irene led to several separate incidents on both sides of the Route 52 causeway that forced it to be temporarily shut down Sunday.

Officials from the city were able to respond to these issues quickly, and said that was partly thanks to the  evacuation.

“This was the first mandatory evacuation procedure that we’ve had in Ocean City in 26 years and it went very successfully,” Donato said. “We were able to get a large majority of the population evacuated. It literally looked like a ghost town.

“The level of flooding we had last night, we would have had a magnitude of call volume from people who would have been stranded from flooding in their homes. Had people been in those homes, we would have had a real mess on our hands.”

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