Sandy - A Reckoning

Part One: ‘All Hell Broke Loose!’

The Beachcomber
By NEAL J. ROBERTS | Jun 30, 2013
Courtesy of: Stephen Harvey JERSEY STRONG: Among our file photos from 2012, this bald eagle at High Bar Harbor, sent to us by Stephen Harvey on Oct. 8, exactly three weeks before Superstorm Sandy, stands out now as a striking local symbol for the faith in a post-Sandy reconstruction of Southern Ocean County.

Editor’s Note: Part 1 in a series on the Superstorm Sandy disaster and recovery on Long Beach Island, as chronicled by the staff of The SandPaper.

For 50 years and seven months, the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 stood alone as the worst trauma modern-day Long Beach Island had ever suffered. On the anniversary year, The Beachcomber devoted its spring 2012 preview issue to what long-time residents often remembered simply as “The March Storm.” Readers of our sister paper The SandPaper retold their personal stories all during March.

Consider this irony: Hurricane Irene churns toward Long Beach Island in August 2011 and passes by only slightly worse than a June thunderstorm. People scoff, “bah, a dud.” And then remembrance of the 1962 killer storm (seven drowned in Holgate) is almost beat to death by local media in March 2012.

A warning?

“Nobody,” Ship Bottom Mayor William Huelsenbeck remarked on the morning after Superstorm Sandy, “is going to talk about the ’62 storm again.”

Perhaps. But maybe this is more likely: nobody with roots in LBI or the mainland bayfront is ever again going to scoff in hindsight at a coastal storm forecast that turned out to be “a dud.”

Sandy redefined our New Jersey coast – physically, emotionally, spiritually and, yes, intellectually. Our beaches, buildings and boats were beat up. Our hearts were distressed. Our better nature soared with a spirit of sharing and a stubborn, “Jersey Strong” resiliency. And by hard evidence, we grew smarter about the coastal hazard we heretofore preferred to deem insignificant.

We who remain will never again presume with certainty, “It won’t reach this far.” No one, we suppose, will talk like a fool anymore concerning whether or not life at the edge of the Atlantic always was, and always will be, a calculated risk.

In the 39 seasons The SandPaper has published since Issue 1 in 1976, LBI’s year-round newsmagazine has never failed to print a weekly issue. Sandy might have ended that record, cutting off access to the Surf City business office on a powerless LBI. But fortunately, and very timely for us, publishers Curt and Gail Travers upgraded to an online production system following staff training in April. By October, that made it possible for staff members working from personal computers to gather stories and post numerous images on the Internet within 24 hours of Sandy’s worst tide. Spot news photos emailed from readers greatly enhanced the record. Later, a skeleton staff working from a home basement in mainland Cedar Run compiled that material for a “Hurricane Sandy Special Edition” print version, which reached news stands – at least on the mainland – by Saturday, Nov. 3, the exhausting end of our all-time longest week. Some pages carried new house ads that boasted, “TheSandPaper.net, Covering Southern Ocean County … No Matter What.” (Yes, we were all immensely proud!)

All of us will long remember Oct. 29, 2012.

 

‘All Hell Broke Loose’

Under the governor’s mandatory evacuation order, access to LBI was blocked by police barricade on the Stafford Township side early Sunday afternoon, Oct. 28. Most Islanders had left as ordered. Yet a large contingent of volunteer fire company and first aid squad members remained, along with essential government employees and officials, primarily because of the few residents and business owners who decided to stay and risk the coming danger.

Twenty-four hours later, with the worst of Sandy still to come, Long Beach Township Police Lt. Paul Vereb announced that evacuation assistance would cease by 5 p.m. Deteriorating conditions were making that task untenable. Monday afternoon there were at least 75 township residents who, having changed their minds about staying, were awaiting police assistance to get off the Island. The morning tide had already broken through the dune line at countless streets from Holgate to Loveladies; and everywhere on the west, the rising bay was sealing off escape. “This is definitely the worst we’ve seen,” Vereb said.

The next high tide was due in after dark…

* * *

Earlier on Monday, Jay Mann, long-time managing editor and fishing columnist at The SandPaper, took his GoPro camera outside during the mid-day high tide, wading 1½ miles from his Ship Bottom house to the still dry SandPaper office at 19th Street in Surf City. There he would spend a cold, dark night alone as Sandy passed overhead while his cell phone, laptop computer and even his flashlight all gave up the battery ghost. Later, writing with his wry wit, the amateur meteorologist shared observations for posterity: “Hurricane Sandy took nearly four days just to come ashore, sucking every ounce of energy she could from an ocean that sported water way warmer than it should have been holding for late October.” [The Northeast Fisheries Science Center later reported the ocean in 2012 was the warmest since 1854.] “In a way, we paid royally for an Indian Summer… And I’ve got my suspicions about that so-called ‘European model’ weather forecasting thing. It was so damn accurate you have to wonder if it might actually be creating the weather,” he wrote, referencing a dead-on, seven-day advance warning that Sandy, once reined in by a secondary storm system, would make the now infamous – and unprecedented – west turn straight to the mainland.

At their primary home outside Ocean County, Barry and Janet Sullivan worried what might befall their vacation home they have owned since 1990 on the Boulevard in North Beach. “We knew the storm was coming, we knew that it was massive, but it wasn’t packing that much wind. It dropped down to a tropical storm as it hit landfall,” recounted Barry. A friend who had stayed on LBI told him by phone, “It’s dry; it looks like we dodged a bullet.” That word came about 6:30 p.m. Monday. The Sullivans went to bed with that assurance.

“The next morning, my wife got up and put the TV on and said, ‘Oh, my God!’ I called my friend back, and he said all hell broke loose at about 20 minutes to 9.”

* * *

Hunkered down at Farreny’s Family RV Park in Holgate, Don and Clarice Karton elected to stay in their trailer Monday, confident in one of two things: either the weather forecast was wrong – or if it wasn’t, they could at least escape to the house of a neighbor, who had left a key for them in case of an emergency.

They conceded their emergency when floodwaters suddenly reached nearly 6 feet deep. Fighting their way into the neighbor’s house, Don later returned into the flood – with Clarice holding a 150-foot lifeline around him – while Don tried to shield their trailer from runaway objects, including a 15-foot chunk of wooden deck that floated down West Avenue.

“I was scared,” said Clarice. “He felt he could do it. And I knew that I would pull him back in, no matter what; it wasn’t an option.”

Long-time LBI surfer Ric Anastasi, who owned Ric’s Aloha Classics surf shop in Beach Haven during the ’90s, was among that town’s fire company and first aid volunteers utilizing military vehicles – and in some instances, waverunners – to reach more than 50 people who were too late for an evacuation. “People weren’t supposed to be on the Island,” he related. “Our [fire] chief was very clear that we were not allowed to respond to any calls that put our safety in jeopardy.” On a Monday night call, at the peak of the storm, Anastasi helped rescue a man trapped under a refrigerator when the storm surge crashed through the Sea Shell Resort’s oceanfront picture windows. Like many other LBI first-responders, Anastasi was helping save others from peril as Sandy, meanwhile, was breaking and entering his own property. The storm made off with an estimated $15,000 in his surfing memorabilia. “I’m just glad to be alive,” he said afterward. “But there’s a 1967 Miki Dora ‘Da Cat’ model floating around somewhere. If anyone sees it, it’s mine.”

Next week: Ghastly Dawn

 

 

 

 

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.