HARVEY CEDARS, N.J. — A nor’easter smacked the storm-ravaged Jersey shore on Wednesday, a week and half after Superstorm Sandy wrecked many of its beaches, dunes and boardwalks, and left low-lying communities newly vulnerable to flooding, wind damage and power outages.
Gov. Chris Christie warned New Jerseyans – including many who have only recently gotten electricity back following Sandy – that they could lose it again in the new storm.
“I know it’s awful to think we might take a few steps back,” he said in a briefing on Long Beach Island, which was devastated by Sandy and still remains off-limits to residents and everyone else. “I can see us moving backwards, people who have gotten power back losing power again.”
About 360,000 New Jersey electricity customers remained without power Wednesday, down from 2.76 million after Sandy.
Public works crews up and down the shore were using bulldozers, front-end loaders and earth movers to push tons of sand back onto what was left of the beaches. But as Bay Head Councilwoman D’Arcy Rohan Green noted at a public meeting on Monday, “We no longer have a dune system; there are just piles of sand back on the beach. Hopefully, they will hold.”
Christie noted that residents and emergency workers are weary, and joked about what else could go wrong.
“So we’re getting ready for another storm,” Christie said. “I’m waiting for the locusts and pestilence next.”
Katie Wilford had to leave her Brick Township home near Barnegat Bay as the nor’easter approached. She bundled her sons Nick, 14, and Matthew, 10, into the minivan in search of an open motel.
“It’s a little overwhelming,” she said. “I can’t believe we’re doing this again. We’re going on Day 10 with no power. That’s a long time. I just want the sun to come out and things to be normal again.”
Brick was among several shore communities where municipal officials decided to evacuations were needed. Others included Middletown, Point Pleasant and Berkeley.
Storm surges of up to 3 feet were predicted. Surges of that magnitude are hardly unheard of and are normally turned back by natural and manmade defenses.
But in many shore towns, those defenses are all but gone.
Adding a new complication: snow. Precipitation started changing over from rain to snow in Manasquan just before noon, and by 1:30 p.m. it was snowing in Point Pleasant. Forecasters said accumulations of 3 to 6 inches were possible in some areas. Places that didn’t get snow could see 1 to 2 inches of rain.
National Guard troops were deployed to help run newly opened shelters. Truckloads of bottled water were arriving, and disaster relief agencies had set up temporary facilities to serve thousands of hot meals to evacuees.
“We’re prepared,” Christie said.
Utility crews were out across the state even as the storm arrived, stringing new wire, cutting away old dead ones, and repairing or replacing damaged electrical components. Christie said those crews, by law, have to stop working once sustained winds reach 40 mph, a precaution necessary for their own safety.
The storm was expected to bring wind gusts of 55 to 65 mph.
The nor’easter also was expected to complicate efforts to restore rail service. NJ Transit spokesman John Durso Jr. said crews aren’t allowed to perform some types of work if winds surpass 20 mph.
The transit agency resumed partial service last Friday. Several lines were on modified schedules, while others were suspended.
Power loss on the Bergen and Pascack Valley lines means crossing gates, switches and signals have to be repaired. NJ Transit was using additional buses to connect commuters with ferry service into Manhattan.