On Sunday, October 28 we were anticipating Hurricane Sandy’s impending arrival here, at the Jersey Shore. Yes, I live at the Jersey Shore. born and raised. The beach and ocean are in my blood and soul. At first, because of Hurricane Irene last year, many were not worried. But, as the storm approached, it seemed to be targeting our beloved shoreline as well as the NYC boroughs and shoreline. On Sunday morning, I saw the news as my husband was out buying duct tape for the windows and driving by the beach to see the waves. The news was ominous and becoming very scary as we saw this ginormous storm approaching our small state. It was then that I started gathering to evacuate and taking personal belongings upstairs, to the second story of our house. They kids were getting nervous and my dog was outside, growling and barking at the wind. Once I let him inside, he laid down on the couch, facing our slider, low tone growling at the weather.
My husband called to let me know that the ocean was very angry and he did not have a good feeling about this storm. Meanwhile, several fire and police men showed up at our door telling us we had to be out of the house by 4pm for a mandatory evacuation. When Cam arrived home, we busted our butts gathering our stuff, looking for important papers and lugging our heavy furniture upstairs. Unfortunately, a few large pieces had to stay downstairs. In the backyard we moved our Honda that my husband has been working on and our small boat into the middle of the back yard. Cam ran around buttoning things up, cramming items into our shed. Finally, we were done as much as we could be. After working for about 4 or 5 hours, we loaded up our cars, one ours, and one borrowed from my brother and said good luck and good-bye to our house.
For the immediate future, we were to stay at my parents house, on the other side of town, which is on higher ground. The 4 of us crammed ourselves with an amazing amount of stuff into my parent’s small, 2 bedroom, one bathroom ranch. There are now 6 of us sharing this house. But, we were safe and now terrified for our house, belongings and our neighbors. I knew in my heart things would not be the same after this storm.
That evening we had dinner with my parents and did our best to settle in. As I laid down to sleep with Noah, I could hear the wind get stronger and the trees creaking in the wind. Monday morning arrived. Cam went to check on the house and the water from the river was already up to our driveway. I had a small panic attack happening inside of me when he told me. So, he came back, picked up Noah and me, Nicholas wanted to stay behind with grandma, and we drove over to the house again, so I could remove some of our other belongings and put them upstairs. When we arrived at our house, the water was half way up the driveway and we had to park at the corner of our street and another side street. We trekked through our neighbors’ yard and up to our front steps.
It was eerie to be in our neighborhood and house. The neighborhood was empty of normal activities, no children playing in the warm air, no lawn mowing, no dogs outside barking. Inside of the house was cold, bare and appeared like we were moving. We took our family pictures off of the walls and gathered our picture frames and some other food in the pantry. Cam looked out the window and panicked when he saw that the water rose up to the bottom of our porch, but not quite to the stairs. We hustled to get out of the house before the three of us were trapped and before the water reached our car.
We went back to my parents and resigned ourselves to whatever will happen to the house. There was nothing we could do. It is a very helpless feeling when you know in your heart that something crazy can happen and there’s nothing in your power to stop it. I was and still am on the verge of tears because of that helpless, lost feeling.
That Monday night was very difficult for any sleep. We lost power at 8:04pm exactly. Cam was up most of the night. We were expecting a super high tide around 11 pm. Super high tide due to a few things. The storm surge for one was pretty big and on top of that, we were at full moon time for the month of October. Those two things combined is very hard when you live by the water. Pretty much anything can happen.
Cam went to check around 2 am or so. He had to park closer to rt. 36/Joline Ave. and walk thru the river water down the blocks, about 2 of them and around to our house. The water had surrounded our house and he could see the high tide line up, over the bottom part of the windows. He waded thru the water and made it into the house, where he noticed our entire first floor was wet, maybe an inch or 2 of water left, but the damage was already done.
He came home to me around 4:30am and woke me up to tell me the news. I’ll be honest, at first, I was relieved. Yes, our crawl space we knew would flood. We planned for water to be in our house but really not prepared for the feelings of despair, the feeling of true helplessness left behind in its wake. I thought about it for a moment and told my husband that we were lucky we only had that damage. We then started to worry about all our neighbors and friends in the surrounding areas who lost everything, contents and/or homes.
Yes, contents can be replaced. Houses can even be replaced. But first you have to deal with the aftermath of the reality of not only your situation, but everyone else’s around you. It is not an easy task to say the least. It is very difficult to imagine what has happened around you. There was little to no media information to obtain. 101.5 lost power, came on briefly and lost power about 15 minutes into the broadcast. We found a station that channel 7 Eyewitness News were transmitting from thankfully. It helped that first day but was very surreal to know they were doing live feeds from our area. Pier Village, Channel Club in Monmouth Beach, Seaside and other locations we knew well. From the sound of it, we were screwed. Most roads were impassable, no stores open, sirens everywhere, trees, HUGE trees down all over the place.
The beach, the sand was in the middle of Ocean Blvd. The whole boardwalk in Long Branch was torn up like a demo team came in and tore it up. Some of the boardwalk was taken out to sea. We heard that the Fun Town Pier in Seaside was ruined and the rollercoaster was in the ocean. No one had power in my area. 70% of NJ was without power. Our cell service was almost non-existent. I personally, did not have cell service until that Friday and even then, it was still spotty.
Cam took my mom, the boys and me over to the house. We saw some of the devastation on our way there, but still did not know the full extent. At the house, there was garbage everywhere. The storm had hit right before our garbage day, so everyone had very full cans. The leaves, branches, twigs and random belongings were everywhere. We went inside the house and it smelled of the river, a dirty, stinky mess was all over our floor. The floor Cam installed himself 2 years ago in December. So, I guess it never made it to its 2nd birthday. Sheet rock was still wet, some of the mouldings we did have up were wet. Our leather chair had a water line on it of about 6 to 8″ off of the floor.
The boat in the backyard floated off on the trailer and sank in the back yard. Our Honda was submerged and totalled. The swing set we got for Nicholas and Noah was ruined. Flipped on its side and I think the wood cracked and now was stuck in the swamp in my back yard. The water line on our shed was 3/4 the way up the side. Cam checked the crawl space and all of the insulation had become heavy with water and fell to the floor, it all was soaked and ruined. The duct work underneath the house had filled with river water and mud and collapsed under the force and weight of the water. We have electrical boxes under the house, too that are damaged. But, again…. We are lucky.
I didn’t lose clothing or pictures, I didn’t lose a life or anything irreplaceable; just a few things and the house took the brunt of the damage. Again, we were lucky. SO THANKFUL for the hard work Cam and I did the day before we got hit.
Days passed, still no power at my parent’s or our house. It took 11 days for power to come back in West End for us. It took 13 for it to come back in North End, were we live. There are still people without power, without homes, some cannot even get into their towns because they were so badly damaged and almost wiped off of the map.
Any of you who spend summers here at the shore have very specific memories about fun times at the beach, boardwalks, restaurants and parks. Most of that is gone or will have to be demolished. You will not be able to visit those places next summer. I hear Sandy Hook may be closed for a few years because it was so badly damaged. Sea Bright is almost non-existent, most of the bayshore communities: Union Beach, Keyport, Keansburg were destroyed. Rumson flooded, as well as Oceanport, Belmar and other local shore communities near me. Many lives are on hold right now. Things are chaotic, there’s looting, people are homeless, people are without power and are very cold.
We were very fortunate for my friend Jeanne and her luck. A friend was bringing a brand new generator up from NC on Thursday after the storm. Her power came back that very day and she loaned us the generator! We picked it up from her on Friday. We were warm for the first time in days!!
Growing up, my family were avid campers. We’d go camping for about 2 weeks every summer. So, we had some gear. We have a Coleman camp stove that we connected to propane and used that for most of our cooking outside. We also used our grill. We were able to purchase a few supplies here and there and we actually did okay. But, I can tell you this, it wasn’t easy. Modern day people are not meant to live “Little House on the Prairie” style. We went to bed at 8pm every night, got up when the sun came up. Then we had the time change and that screwed us up even more. But, we made it thru.
We were able to get insurance adjuster to come out right away and for FEMA to come to inspect. The FEMA lady measure 81″ water line on the outside of my house. The water did rise to just over the bottom of our windows. We were surprised it had really gone that high. Let me tell you this, 8″ of water in your house does waaaaay more damage than you think. I can’t imagine if it has risen to 2 feet in the house what would have been the outcome.
Meanwhile, Cam and my dad have been working very hard on the demo of the damaged first floor. All floors need to be removed, window mouldings, door mouldings (I think we need a new door anyway), 4 feet of sheet rock and insulation all the way around the first floor, our slate floor in the bathroom and kitchen cabinets. We also need new appliances for the kitchen.
It’s a long road. Nicholas finally went back to school this past week. My brother’s car he loaned to us has broken down. We only have one car now, until the other can be fixed. A new normal is trying to establish itself. I don’t know what is in store for all of us here. But what I do know is this:
Be thankful for what you have, today, at this precise moment. Take in the area you live in and absorb the sights, smells and feeling you get from them. You never know when those things will be changed in a blink of an eye, possibly forever.
I am thankful I don’t need to stay at Tent City in the Monmouth Park parking lot in Oceanport and that I have family to stay with. I am thankful for all of those who can stay at Tent City and are not homeless on the street. I am thankful everyone I know is safe from the storm. They may have issues like I do in our house but they will survive, just like my family and me. We are survivors in NJ. Not much gets us down. We fight, claw and work our way back to where we need to be. Things will be bigger, stronger and better once all the work is done and the healing begins.
Speaking of healing, some people I went to school with have come together and started a group called, Jersey Rising. They are planning a HUGE benefit concert/fundraiser for the shore communities where we grew up together and are now raising our children.
To find out more information and to join in the movement, please follow them on Twitter @JerseyRising and on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/jerseyrising?ref=ts&fref=ts
Please help us recover and get out spirit back. We need support in this trying time. The holidays are coming, things are very difficult here, but we will come together and make it through. I wish I could get out and help, I wish there was more I can do. What I can do here, from my computer, is get the word out about Jersey Rising and help make that happen. I believe in the people running it, I believe in the acts they are trying to line up. Think NJ, think of the possibilities of who could be the acts if it works out and they get the publicity they need to make it happen.
Thank you for reading about my plight during the storm. Please keep a prayer or two for the people of this area and the NY areas devastated by this crazy storm.
Please donate to: https://sandynjrelieffund.org/index.html
Here’s the link to part 2: http://snbgallery.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/after-the-storm/