Seeing a police officer armed with an automatic rifle at the end of the Causeway in Ship Bottom was a worse sight than any nightmare I have ever had.
He and a pair of National Guardsmen were checking IDs and verifying access at the Gateway to Long Beach Island for contractors, utility workers, media and some select home and business owners to protect against looters and ensure the saftey on those coming on to the Island.
Businesses that had perishable items were being allowed by Beach Haven to get them and leave. Residents in Surf City whose homes had been “red flagged," essentially declared uninhabitable, were allowed to go in briefly to collect personal items. Those helping to rebuild the island were also arrriving in convoys of dump trucks and with other equipment.
Such was the case for Jeff and Chris Schmidt, owners of a summer rental property on the bayfront in Surf City. As his wife tried to hold back her tears, Schmidt said, “It’s all just too overwhelming right now.”
The lower level of their home had furniture strewn everywhere and the water line was about four feet up the wall. Outside, their boat like countless others sat on the ground.
In Ship Bottom, Dr. Robert Synder was collecting the computers, records and inventory from his optometrist practice.
He had sealed his doors in plastic and then sandbagged them, so the damage was somewhat contained but he was still out of business on LBI for now. “The only thing that is saving me is my office over in Tuckerton was spared,” said the Surf City resident.
The DiFiglio family was not so lucky. The owners of one of the only grocery stores on the island, their inventory was a total loss and layer of thick, sandy muck covered the floor.
Five National Guard troops had hopped off a bus headed to the command post at the Long Beach Township town hall to help them clear the store.
At the command center, any persons not directly connected to the emergency management effort were required to register and in some cases be escorted to where they needed to go.
Surveying the Boulevard between the command post and Surf City town hall, the damage did not appear to be that bad. The streets were relatively clear of sand, but as one looked closer you could see the high water marks on the homes alluding to the damage inside.
“I would estimate 80 to 90 percent on the borough had 3-5 feet of water above the street level, so all low lying homes are damaged,” said Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck.
The mayor said they are now keeping an eye on the national weather forcast before making any plans to allow residents back. "There is a chance we are geting a nor'easter early next week. Until we see what happens with that we are holding off on letting people back," hesaid.
He also advised all homeowners to begin making arrangements to have their homes winterized once they can gain access. It could be months before the gas is turned on and no one is going to have gas heat before then, he said.
Along the bayfront, as in Surf City, the damage was also very apparent.
The oceanfront beaches in Brant Beach to Surf City appeared in tact and little damage was noted to the oceanfront homes.
This was opposed to further north and south on LBI in places like Hogate and North Beach. In the area I saw, the dunes held but the drop offs were dramatic.
Along the newly replenished dunes in Brant Beach, the long incline leading up the dunes were fine. But at the crest, there was no path down just a 15-20 foot plunge to the beach.
There is a schedulled press conference later Sunday morning at the Command Cetnter in Brant Beach. Patch will update you as more details are released.