Memorial Day 1962 - 'We Must Build on Memory of That Storm'

Photo by: Courtesy of Ed Kaes Make Way: Bulldozers and tractors worked all during the spring and summer for LBI to recover from those dreadful days in March; summer vacationers came as usual.

A half century ago, in the first summer issue of 1962, “Beachcombings” led off with a progress report on recovery from the devastating Great March Storm less than three months earlier. This nor’easter damaged or destroyed about two-thirds of the homes in Harvey Cedars, leveled Holgate, broke through the Island in three places and washed away most of the Island beaches.

Looking back over last year’s Memorial Day issue, we noticed that we had started the 1961 season with a report of the northeast storm in early April, which, at the time, we thought a bad one. It is ironic that a year later we must repeat this.

People have said to us, “Forget the storm, look ahead,” but to our mind these do not go together. We shall certainly look ahead, but we shall not forget the storm of March 6. In looking ahead, and building for the best season ever – we have found that the summer seasons successively improve – we must build on the memory of that storm. What it must mean to us now is the opportunity to improve the Island, to powerfully strengthen our beachfront and, more specifically, to push for a long- awaited and federally backed flood insurance.

We live and work with two constant sounds, by day the drone of bulldozers, earthmovers and other reconstruction equipment – by night, the pounding of the ocean. Now the ocean is calm and gentle and the equipment strong and powerful. They are reconstructing our beachfront, pushing up dunes and forming new dune lines to hold the ocean back.

Restoration and reconstruction are the key words. The whole Island, with the exception of hard-hit Harvey Cedars and Holgate, is ready for the summer visitors. Debris has been cleaned up, roads have been cleared, and tourist facilities are in operation. One motel owner, demonstrating the confidence felt on the Island, has added 18 units to his bayfront motel. When friends tried to book a room two weeks ago on a Saturday, there were none available.

Vacationers will be surprised and delighted at the clean, wide, white beaches; some are better than ever because the storm brought new sand to the surface. It is reported that the fishing is better also – and if the number of cars with poles on the roof and the crowds at the fishing clubs are any indication, the reports are correct. This is a result of the marine growth torn from the ocean bottom during the storm.

All businesses are operating. Almost all of them are located on the Boulevard and had only to contend with water and mud, which was quickly cleared away. The Ship’s Wheel, which washed away in Harvey Cedars, is partially rebuilt and has a sign out reading, “Open for business Memorial Day.” It opened on June 17th. The Sink ’r Swim Shop, also in Harvey Cedars, was completely sunk and the remains cleared away. Sink ’r Swim reopened in Haven Beach a few months later.

Real estate offices report that vacationers who previously stayed in Harvey Cedars have not deserted for other communities. Mayor Reynold Thomas, operating out of a temporary borough hall (it was destroyed in the storm), said that the main road would be oiled by mid-June. This hard hit town is taking great strides toward rebuilding. All homes must now be built on pilings, this method having been found to best resist floodwaters. The town is allowing property owners who lost their homes to put trailers on their property, a temporary measure to give these homeowners a summer at the shore. The trailers must be gone by November.

Of the approximately 350 homes in Harvey Cedars, about 200 were destroyed or severely damaged. Sand was 3 to 4 feet deep over most of the town. At the south end, the rushing water had uncovered stumps of the cedar forest that was destroyed in the 1821 hurricane. Water mains were snapped into pieces. Federal emergency funds were granted to the borough for the restoration of public facilities. Some, but not many, homeowners sold at distress-sale prices.

Harvey Cedars has established a planning commission which must make some hard decisions on whether certain beach properties should be set aside as parks in order to build up and preserve the natural terrain. One only has to look to see that no beach land was set aside for public space; the demands of the private sector dominated. But the borough did set aside for public use the land that is now Sunset Park. Much of the rubble from destroyed buildings is buried there.

Up and down the Island, the burning question was “what to do with the beaches.” The LBI Conservation Society conducted a panel meeting to discuss the pros and cons of bulkheads vs. sand dunes. … The Loveladies Property Owners met to discuss the rehabilitation of the beach. … The Long Beach Township commissioners proposed a $3.1 million bond issue to build a bulkhead from Ship Bottom to Beach Haven.

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