For a lot people near disaster, last night was mismanaged to say the least.
A barge and it excavator fell just 19 yards short of hitting the first bridge, the Gateway to Long beach island .
These bridges have been touted as the life line to the resort area and local residents. Then we saw the barge slamming into the causeway .
I notified a patrolman that there was a barge in distress he told me, yes, we know.
After returning home to change jackets and get my camera, I observed now the barge had lost it. Trying to cross the bridge in the hight of the storm was no easy matter.
I had thought, perhaps, I could drive the thing off. In a matter of 10 minutes, it had moved and lost the excavator. The waves were now pounding the sea wall. And the barge had moved now off the wall and was on its way to clear water, every swell lifting its anchor poles up and down.
But it was dragging the excavator - a saving grace as it was acting like a huge sea anchor. The sea state at this time would lead to no one being able to do anything. We were at its mercy. After finding the operators in a truck on Route 72, both looking battered and beat up, I had them give me a ride to the other side, back to my home side.
The wind on the bridge was some 60 mph. I noticed a second police car on the access road and had them stop, and I said i would inform the police they where there. I approached the second car and had to wait while the police officer was talking on his phone, all the while being pelted by wind and freezing rain. He cracked his window. I informed him the excavator had rolled of and now was in the wate. I then informed him the crew was behind me up in Route 72, as well as who they were and the company's name.
He said thanks and, yes, we're monitoring the barge now, and if it gets any closer we will have to close the bridge. And with tha,t he said thanks and we went on our merry ways. He was still sitting there watching the barge, while I was soaked and frozen.
I took a hot shower while the cards from my cameras downloaded NBC 10 called and wanted the shots. So did NJ news. I had emailed both when I changed clothes and got my cameras. After a quick download edit, I sent them off. The storm was then at full glory. Waves were crashing up to 20-feet spray in the air or more.
Like an idiot, I was back out to see if it had moved, The wave action was now over the entire barge and just a huge spray. I could hardly stand - in fact, I just leaned against the bridge berm being held there by the wind.
Cameras are expensive, and i hardly shot anything in the dark but i did manage two. It was now around 9 p.m. No police cars were in sight. I'm told that when I get home, via email, that one of the spots on the evening news ran. And another Hurricane Jersy News had questions because the Stafford dispatcher would not confirm the barge was threatening the bridge. So I sent him the footage again.
12 midnight: Things calmed down a little. I trudged thropugh the water, again, to get to the bridge. The barge had moved on a heeling angle but was still being held by its past occupant.
3 a.m. Back out for high tide winds doing little as well, as rain fell. It was also very cold. Crews were out salting the highway still none watching the barge.
4 a.m. No huge high tide swell like reported. We would get barge sitting in the same place. Wave action had died.
5:30 a.m.A lot of water in the back bays. Still then, we could see the debris. Barge was leaning more but, more or less, it had dug in. I'm satisfied so I could go to sleep. No one out now at all.
7:30 a.m. Got some coffee, another shower, new boots, socks. Quick look up the street - a lot of water. Barge is holding ok - writing the story.
9 a.m. - Back out to check for fuel
11:30 a.m. Back in from shooting contact. Patch story's ready. Early morning edition of the barge video is up. Company owner calls the Maritime Environmental Safety service to contain the fuel. They, in fact, watch the first videos that were up, they tell me . and get a good idea of what they're facing.
1 p.m. ECS and Two Boat USA, Point Pleasant, show up with booms and boats.
2 p.m. They're deployed.
By three o'clock, the jobs were done.
From 9:30 a.m. to dark, I saw not one emergency management personnel police or otherwise. The bridge is actually supposed be patrolled by the State Police and Homeland Security.
I contacted the Coast Guard around 2 p.m. when its was evident none was coming and to report it was being boomed and was basically dug in now. The petty officer on watch checked with me and the boom deploy team several times during operations, and we all assured them that the barge seemed dug in at this point, and there was a plan to remove it ASAP, as soon as they could get a crane big enought to handle pulling an excavator out of the water.
They as well watched the video footage I had taken when I told them were it was on the InterneT., So, so much for what some have said was sensationalism.
When i was told the bridge was in jeopardy of being shut down by the second officer, I reported it - and with the weather reports of a second surge late night to come.
I was afraid it was going to break free. I have worked dealing with deep-ocean salvage barges, and recovery of vessels. I knew what the potential was here. The onwer and company did nothing really wrong here; it was just the fact the storm was more than they percieved.
This is Manahawin Bay, not Barnegat, and it builds very fast in nor"easthers here. Next time, though, I will not assume any offical law inforcement has taken the proper steps. I will call the Army Corps right down to homeland security.
Never rely on someone else to do when you can do it yourself. Tow Boats USA and Maritime enviromental safety services were very professional and equiped well. Chapmans Causeway Marina opened the ramp to them as well.
Now for some much needed sleep and a huge clean up tommrrow of Railroad Avenue.