UPDATE, as of 8:40 a.m. Tuesday — The boardwalk to the south of the fishing pier is badly buckled and railings are torn down. Although the fishing shack has vanished without a trace, the fishing pier itself remains, but with planking and pilings tilted and buckled. The far end of the pier is gone. The beach office and the building next to it also suffered damage.
The cupola that stands between Bradley Beach and Ocean Grove is smashed to smithereens. On the beach south of the pier no vegetation remains; the dunes are gone. West of the beach, along Fletcher Lake, no damage was seen except that a cupola near St. Francis Asbury Manor has been overturned. Many trees are blown down, as well as power lines. Many Neptune Township trucks are on the scene. — Mary Walton
UPDATE, as of 8:15 a.m. Tuesday – Damage along the oceanfront is severe. About 25 percent of the north side of the Auditorium roof appears ripped off down to the rafters. There is also damage at the rear of the auditorium — much debris. The boardwalk is a huge mess. Not only is planking destroyed but the boardwalk is covered with sand, flower containers and benches are strewn every whichway and steel railings are bent out of shape. The buildings at the far north end of the boardwalk, near Asbury Park, suffered significant damage. The former restaurant there is torn completely open in back, toward the ocean, and wind and sand are blowing through the building.
The boardwalk pavilion is intact, although the boardwalk has buckled in that area. The dunes have also survived the storm. Houses along Ocean Avenue appear undamaged. People are out walking about, but although there is no rain the wind is strong, blowing sand, and the waves are boiling. — Mary Walton and Paul Goldfinger
UPDATE, as of 7:50 a.m. Tuesday — Ralph DelCampo, Camp Meeting administrator, says the north end of the Ocean Grove boardwalk has suffered heavy damage. About half that area of the boardwalk is gone. He also says the pier is “pretty much” gone.
As for the roof of the Great Auditorium on the northern side, he says it “just peeled off” in the wind. There is no visible damage inside the auditorium, though. The Camp Meeting will try to make some quick temporary repairs to the building today.
DelCampo says he was in his home on Seaview Avenue Monday night and saw water pouring over the dunes. The water appeared not to have gotten into houses in that part of town. — Mary Walton
UPDATE, as of 11 p.m. — The northern half of the roof of the Great Auditorium blew off earlier this evening, Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn tells us. Jahn says that section of the roof was stripped away down to the rafters. — Charles Layton
UPDATE, as of 10 p.m. – Here are some flooding reports. One reader says the area of Broadway and New York is flooded from the storm surge, and that the water came far up Abbott as well. Another reader confirms water from Abbott to New York and Broadway, but says it seems to be receding now. Also, power was out in that area.
A reader who is following events from out of town says he “got a call from a neighbor saying that water is entering the first floor of his home on Inskip Avenue. Given that my house is next door, I don’t have much hope of a dry home upon my eventual return.”
UPDATE, as of 8:30 p.m. — The bad news continues. As a result of the storm the phone lines at Neptune Township and the Neptune Police Department are down. The 9-1-1 system still works, but officials urge that this number be called only in case of “a true life-threatening emergency.”
The ocean water that overflowed the boardwalk has now reached Beach Avenue. It is said to be particularly deep at Main and Beach. Bill Bailey of the Camp Meeting says it is unclear how much damage the boardwalk may have suffered. It is impossible, due to the water, to assess damage to that or to the pier. Bailey says the Great Auditorium has suffered some damage as well, but, again, that cannot be properly assessed at this time.
Fire engines were recently seen barrelling down Main Avenue toward the ocean. We do not know what that was about.
For those of you following these events from afar, the wind coming in off the ocean remains strong, though far below hurricane strength. Some rain continues to fall, but less than before. The lights remain out.
– Mary Walton, Paul Goldfinger and Charles Layton
UPDATE, AS OF 8:10 p.m. — More bad news. Mayor Randy Bishop confirms that the fishing shack on the pier and the planking surrounding that building are gone. The pilings remain. And a resident reports that ocean water has now overflowed the boardwalk and is rushing down the east-west running streets. — Mary Walton
UPDATE, as of 7:55 p.m. – Electrical power has gone out in Ocean Grove. We are not sure whether this outage includes all of Ocean Grove, but it does include everywhere we can see from our perch at Blogfinger World Headquarters on Mt. Hermon Way. Asbury Park remains lit. Can any of our readers let us know about other parts of the Grove? — Paul Goldfinger
UPDATE, as of 6 p.m. — A survey of the beachfront area shows the following: No flooding on Broadway, but Fletcher lake is still rising. Ocean covering the entire beach up to the dunes, breaching the berms in places and spraying over the boardwalk. Cars driving around town in defiance of the ban; and a sprinkling of sightseers on the boardwalk. Blowing sand and a light rain. Quotes from phone conversation with Mayor Randy Bishop: “Are we fortunate that it seems to be less of a rain event? Yes. However, rain wasn’t the biggest concern. It was the coastal flooding. We’ll see what happens with the tides.” — Mary Walton
By Paul Goldfinger, Mary Walton and Charles Layton
MONDAY — Ocean Grove and much of Neptune Township were under a virtual lockdown, awaiting the approach of one of the most destructive storms in New Jersey history.
All commercial and “non-essential” businesses were ordered closed. Near the Ocean Grove beachfront, all access was prohibited and a mandatory evacuation order was in effect.
Early in the morning, amid rain and increasingly gusty wind, police went door to door asking residents near the beach, near Fletcher Lake and in other low-lying areas to evacuate immediately.
Township officials continued to say, with ever-growing confidence, that Hurricane Sandy, when it hit full-force on Monday evening, would be catastrophic.
Although evacuation was not mandatory in all of Ocean Grove, Deputy Mayor Eric Houghtaling said, “If you live in Ocean Grove I would advise you to get out of Dodge.”
The Neptune government’s website posted a list of areas where evacuation was mandatory. In Ocean Grove, those areas included everyone from Central Avenue eastward to the boardwalk. The mandatory evacuation area also included the entirety of the following streets: Spray, Cookman, Clark, Franklin, Stockton, Inskip, Fletcher Lake Avenue and Beach Avenue. Also Central Avenue and Pilgrim Pathway between Main and Fletcher Lake Avenues.
Some other areas of the Township, including parts of Shark River Hills, were also part of the mandatory evacuation.
The information as to who was and who was not required to leave can be found on the Neptune Township website: click here.
Effective at noon Monday the Township restricted all public traffic on municipal roads until determined safe. Neptune High School was turned into an emergency reception center, where people who needed shelter could come.
“I expect the complete destruction of the pier, the pavilion, the boardwalk, everything,” predicted Rick Cuttrell, the township clerk, who also serves as Neptune’s in-house meteorologist.
“This storm is worse than any storm on record in New Jersey,” Michael Bascom, Neptune’s coordinator of emergency management, said.
That strong and unequivocal language came during presentations to the Township’s department heads, who gathered on Sunday at the Midtown Community School, where an emergency management center had been set up for the duration of the storm.
At mid-afternoon, the Camp Meeting Association, which owns the pier, boardwalk and other oceanfront facilities, said it had no reported damage to any of its property. “All our facilities are holding their own,” said Bill Bailey, the Camp Meeting’s director of operations, except for “minor broken windows” and “trees dropping here and there.” (This would change by Monday evening. See the updates at the top of this story.)
The approaching hurricane strengthened overnight, and on Monday morning it was reported to have sustained winds of 85 mph. It was headed straight for the central New Jersey coast, expected to slam straight into our area around 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Monday evening. After making landfall it is predicted to move westward across our state and then turn north, blanketing a large portion of Pennsylvania and New York with heavy rain.
Widespread power outages were expected. Jersey Central Power & Light officials said when outages did occur their crews would not be able to go out and restore power until after the storm had passed. The utility warned that power could be out in some places for as long as 7 to 10 days.
Monday morning’s high tide was already causing coastal flooding in some areas. But the next high tide, on Monday evening, was expected to be much worse — the worst on record for our area, in fact.
“Severe coastal flooding will occur this evening with the likely complete destruction of all boardwalks, pavilions, piers and docks along the immediate coast,” Cuttrell reported on his website Monday morning. “There will also be damage to homes located near the ocean bays or rivers,” he added.
Police closed the boardwalk area to all traffic on Monday and chased away pedestrians who tried to enter the area.
Two bulldozer were shoring up the berms on the beach near Fletcher Lake Monday morning, trying to block some of the water from entering the lake and the low-lying southern area of Ocean Grove. However, it was considered all but certain that Fletcher Lake would overflow its banks once the storm hit.
Ocean Grove’s Main Avenue commercial district was almost completely abandoned on Monday, with many storefronts boarded up. The Barbaric Bean coffeehouse was open Monday morning, though. “We’re barbarians,” owner Joe Parillo joked. “We have a reputation to maintain.” He and his wife, Margie, held a prayer vigil from 9 p.m. Sunday night to 6 a.m., but they were the only ones there.
Homes in Ocean Grove near the lakes and along Ocean Avenue could be inundated by record tides, Neptune officials said. Bascom said the highest anticipated tide, on Monday, could send water past Central Avenue.
Deputy Mayor Eric Houghtaling signed an official declaration of emergency following Sunday’s briefing of Township employees. The declaration allowed local officials to impose curfews, close roads, restrict traffic flows and mobilize all the Township’s assets and employees – everyone from librarians to police to maintenance and sanitation workers. The declaration was amended and strengthed on Monday to allow for mandatory evacuations and other extraordinary measures where necessary.
Out of a range of recent predictions about the course and destructive power of the impending storm, Bascom said the worst-case scenario was the one that was coming true. He said, Monmouth County and Neptune will be hit by the northeast quadrant of the storm, which is the part carrying the hardest wind and the thickest rain.
Cuttrell said the tides from Sandy would be higher than either those of Hurricane Irene last year or the devastating northeaster of 1992.
Monday night’s tide, he said, was expected to be 11½ feet, breaking all records for high tides. It would be several feet higher than the tides during Irene and during the 1992 northeaster. And that doesn’t consider the action of waves, which, driven by tropical-storm strength winds, could run as high as 25 feet.
Officials asked that the 9-1-1 phone lines be used only for true emergencies, because the Township does not want those lines to become overloaded. Any call other than a genuine emergency should go to 732- 988-5200, extensions 230, 231-234-235 or 236.
Officials warned residents to stay away from downed trees and power lines during the storm.
For our previous story on Hurricane Sandy, go here.