October 31, 2012

Christie: Devastation at NJ shore 'unthinkable'

The Associated Press

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Currie Wagner looks at the wreckage of his grandmother Betty Wagner's house, which was destroyed and wound up resting on top of the Mantoloking Bridge the morning after hybrid storm Sandy rolled through, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, in Mantoloking. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Tuesday that the devastation on the New Jersey shore is "unthinkable" and that the state will likely take months to recover. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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Foundations and pilings are all that remain of brick buildings and a boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, after they were destroyed when a powerful storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast on Monday night. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

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"It was like somebody taking a massive sledgehammer to the wall," Anthony said Tuesday. "I thought we were dead. Even if we did get out the window, the waves were so powerful."

Fear gave way to relief for many New Jerseyans once the storm passed.

"We got lucky," Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian. "It could have been a lot worse but what we got was something I've never seen before in my life."

When Barry Prezioso returned to his home of 37 years in Point Pleasant to find flood damage, he said he was heartbroken, but also felt fortunate.

"Nobody got hurt and the upstairs is still livable, so we can still live upstairs and clean this out," he said. "I'm sure there's people that had worse. I feel kind of lucky."

The storm swept two dozen small train freight cars off their tracks and onto an elevated section of the New Jersey Turnpike in Carteret. It collapsed roofs in Seaside Heights and partially buried many homes in sand. On the resort community's boardwalk — the one where much of the "Jersey Shore" reality TV show was filmed — parts of two amusement piers fell into the ocean, one taking the landmark Star Jet roller coaster with it.

Brian Hajeski, an iron worker, got his wife, two kids and two dogs inland Monday night, then returned to their house near the bay in Brick Township to retrieve some clothes. Water was lapping up on the driveway when he got there. Fifteen minutes later, the water was a few feet deep and rising as the ocean breached the bay, he said.

"I think I just made it out of there in time," Hajeski said.

Hajeski said the neighborhood smelled of diesel fuel that had apparently spilled somewhere. He saw boats from a nearby boatyard scattered on roads and dead squirrels floating in floodwaters. When he went to nearby Mantoloking in a canoe, he found homes wiped out. "Six or eight were just gone," he said.

Authorities in Moonachie launched a rescue effort after a huge tidal surge sent water over a natural berm in the town of 2,700 about 10 miles northwest of Manhattan. Police Sgt. Tom Schmidt said the rush of water put about 5 feet of water on the streets within 45 minutes. Hundreds of stranded people were taken out by boats and trucks in rescues that lasted through Tuesday.

The area, along the Hackensack River, is usually not prone to flooding. By contrast, spots along central and northern New Jersey's Passaic and Raritan rivers that often flood were not hard hit.

Bergen County Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Dwane Razzetti said people were clinging to rooftops after the first and second floors of their homes flooded.

Moonachie resident Juan Allen said he watched a dramatic creek overflow near his home. "I saw trees not just knocked down but ripped right out of the ground," he said. "I watched a tree crush a guy's house like a wet sponge."

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Nicholas Rodriguez looks over a section of the destroyed boardwalk in Atlantic City, N.J., Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012, not far from where a powerful storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy made landfall the night before. Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without electricity, but the full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore Monday night with hurricane force, was unclear. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)


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