By Mary Walton
Neptune Township opened a command post Wednesday on South Riverside Drive in Shark River Hills, a largely middle-class neighborhood that is by all accounts the sector of the Township hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Boats still remain in people’s yards, tossed like children’s tub toys by the same tide-propelled surge of water that shattered the Ocean Grove pier and boardwalk.
In front of one house uphill from the marina, what looks to be a long wooden deck is, on closer inspection, a section of dock.
The municipally-owned marina suffered the complete loss of its repair shop. All that remains is a concrete slab and a pile of debris.
Some homes were destroyed and many are at least temporarily uninhabitable. One of the fortunate owners, Rick Stimson, standing in front of his home at 111 Hillcrest Avenue on a sunny Thursday morning, said he ended up with two feet of water on his first floor after the surge burst through his garage door.
Because of its proximity to the water table, his home and others similarly situated have no basements. In a yard next door sat two boats. On one side was a small 15-footer named “Sputnik,” its outboard motor still attached.
Directly in front of the house sat a sleek 40-foot luxury craft with no name. A woman rounded the corner of the house from the back. “Are you the owner?” she asked, sounding annoyed.
Told no, she turned away abruptly.
Stimson, who was at home with two children, said the water came up quickly after 7 p.m. “You could hear the wind and the waves.” He watched the larger boat as it plowed up Hillcrest Avenue. “It bumped off the telephone pole and kept right on going. The wind was blowing so hard it went right up the street.”
A strong odor of fuel oil filled the air. “We were worried about being overcome by the fumes.”
In the Township’s command post, a small trailer equipped with two laptops, a TV and a view of the now-placid river, Neptune Mayor Randy Bishop was juggling calls on his cell. Between calls, he said they plan to set up a hot spot outside the trailer with Internet access for individuals.
“Soon we will be announcing the opening of a charging station,” he added. It will not, however, be in The Grove.
With respect to power, “JCP&L has told us it’s 10 to 15 days, period. They will not prioritize.”
He said they will be “bringing in lines live to test the lines. It looks like they’re working from the substations out,” and Ocean Grove “is at the end of the line.”
A widespread rumor that the water was shutting down “is not true,” Bishop said. Also, “there are no boiled water advisories.”
He was surprised to hear that people described as FEMA representatives had been in Ocean Grove Wednesday telling residents on Broadway that a substation would open. He warned that disasters bring out scam artists. “That’s the first I’ve heard of it. Did they ask to see their ID?”
Stepping outside to show a Blogfinger team the storm damage, Bishop was approached by a woman in tears. “There’s people walking down the streets, asking ‘Can we take this? Is anybody getting rid of stuff?’ ” she sobbed. “People are trying to get into The Hills and trying to get into people’s homes. People who don’t live in Shark River don’t belong here.”
Bishop put his arm around her. “I’ll make a phone call,” he said.