NOTE: This article was updated at 1 p.m. Thursday.
By Paul Goldfinger, Mary Walton and Charles Layton
The lack of gasoline is becoming an emergency concern in Ocean Grove, throughout Neptune Township and across a huge part of New Jersey. It threatens to leave us stranded without transportation, but it also threatens in another way: People fortunate enough to have home generators are running out of the gas that runs them.
No one knows where to get gas. Mayor Randy Bishop said word got around on Thursday that Hess stations were selling gas, and people started descending upon those stations.
We witnessed this at the Hess station at 1009 Main Street in Bradley Beach. People arrived early in the morning carrying yellow and red gas cans. Those in cars formed a line that ran north on Main Street, then onto Corlies Avenue and then onto Memorial.
The station was not actually pumping gas. People were waiting for a generator that was in the process of being installed. When we were there, at about 11 a.m., cars had already been waiting for at least four hours. At one point a rap performance broke out among those waiting.
Mayor Bishop said the Township would continue to impose a curfew from 7 at night until 7 in the morning. Asked the purpose of the curfew, he said, “Have you been on the roads at night? It’s like playing dodge ball on the streets.” Another reason for the curfew is to prevent looting, he said. Some looting has already been reported in Shark River Hills, which suffered the most storm damage of any Neptune neighborhood.
Bishop said the total storm damage suffered in Neptune is estimated at between $60 million and $75 million. “That’s significant,” Bishop said. “If you think about it, it’s twice our municipal budget.” There has been no specific damage estimate yet for Ocean Grove, although Camp Meeting Administrator Ralph delCampo said Thursday that only about 25 percent of the boardwalk appeared to be salvageable.
Even in the daytime, streets are a bit of a free-for-all. There are no traffic lights, and police are not present at most intersections. Police have closed many streets, meaning people cannot take some of their familiar routes to get from here to there.
There was hardly any traffic on Thursday morning, even along Route 33. This was undoubtedly due to the gasoline shortage. A few stations along the Garden State Parkway did have generator power — and therefore could pump gas — but state police were forming people into huge waiting lines. Those stations providing gas only had super, at $4.50 a gallon.
Apparently only a few major food stores are open in our general area: Wegmans, Food Town and ShopRite. Costco and Wallmart are also open now. Wegmans closed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday to save its generators. On Thursday morning people arrived in its parking lot expecting it to open at 6 a.m., but it didn’t open until 7. There were lines.
Many were coming to Wegmans to charge their devices and to use the Internet — it is one of the few places where that can be done. The store was limiting each person to 30 minutes at an electrical outlet.
In Ocean Grove on Thursday morning, Main Avenue was shut down. The only stores open were the flower shop and the hardware store, and they were dark inside. No one had power. Even the Barbaric Bean was closed this morning.
The Neptune Municipal Building opened on Thursday. And the Township set up a “command post” on South Riverside Drive in Shark River Hills, which was being manned by the mayor and others. It was hoped that people would be able to register for FEMA assistance right there.
Neptune Township Clerk Rick Cuttrell said in spite of the lack of power next week’s election will go forward. He said most polling places are in fire stations and other places that have generator power. In other polling places the Township will make arrangements, he said.
Bishop said the Township Committee meeting scheduled for November 8 has been cancelled. instead, a Saturday November 10 meeting is planned, which will be totally dedicated to the storm. “The governing body will take action on a variety of resolutions that we need to pass to continue with recovery,” Bishop said.
Regarding our FEMA status, the entire state of New Jersey has been declared a disaster area. Assistant Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta said we are in two FEMA categories at present: Category A, which is for debris removal, and Category B, which has to do with protective measures such as police protection. For other categories we have had partial but not yet full declarations of disaster.
As for property damage, Gadaleta said, “People need to reach out to their insurance carriers first.” This would be important later in dealing with FEMA.
To read our Wednesday story on the storm damage and recovery, click here.