Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane Sandy’

As planks are removed from the damaged boardwalk, they are saved in piles for possible reuse. Photo by Mary Walton

As planks are removed from the damaged boardwalk, they are being saved and evaluated for possible reuse. Photo by Mary Walton

By Mary Walton

The Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association estimates that it will cost roughly $3 million to restore the boardwalk and pier damaged by Hurricane Sandy, interim administrator Ralph delCampo said Tuesday.

The cost for the pier alone is estimated at $500,000 to $750,000. In addition, the insurance policy which covers the damaged roof of the Great Auditorium, now under repair, has a $100,000 deductible.

DelCampo emphasized that the estimates are preliminary, given many questions about how to proceed. “We want to enhance the kind of construction,” he said. “We do not simply want to replace the boardwalk. What did we learn from other towns?”

One thing they learned is not to follow the example of Spring Lake, he said. After last year’s Hurricane Irene demolished the boardwalk there, the town rebuilt it in nearly identical fashion, only to lose it to Sandy.

In fact, planks in the heavily damaged section of the Ocean Grove boardwalk between the south side of the pavilion and the beach office were recently replaced at a cost approaching $300,000. “All of that money just went to the ocean,” delCampo said. That section, known as the Middle Beach, now must be completely rebuilt.

In probing why the pavilion itself and the boardwalk north of Seaview Avenue survived almost intact, initial credit went to the dunes. No one is discounting their importance, but, in addition, the Camp Meeting discovered that a hidden bulwark of massive boulders and rubble lies beneath them. “We believe that’s what saved the boardwalk and dunes,” delCampo said.

Dale Whilden, president of the board of trustees, who joined delCampo in a conference call with Blogfinger, said the boulder wall was built in 1953 following a major storm. Post Sandy, he discovered drawings and documentation in his files. “I had forgotten,” he said. “A couple of trustees remembered it vaguely.”

Under discussion now is extending that bulwark south in tandem with new dunes. DelCampo said the Camp Meeting is working with consulting engineer Peter Avakian and with local contractors in designing a plan. At present, the Middle Beach boardwalk is being systematically dismantled and inspected for structural integrity, a process that will take about three months. “We will remove joists and planks and even some of the pilings and save them to be reused,” delCampo said.

At the same time, he said. the Camp Meeting has hired a consultant “to help us work through applications.” Topping the list of potential funders is the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA will pay 75 percent of the cost of approved projects and up to 100 percent under certain circumstances. Gov. Christie has asked for the higher amount.

The Camp Meeting is also seeking private contributions from people in the community. delCampo said he was intrigued by Belmar’s “Buy a Board” campaign, which allows contributors to pay from $25 to $5,000 for individual planks, with their name and board level displayed at beach entrances.

The topic of private donations came up at meetings the Camp Meeting held last week with representatives of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association and with Ocean Grove United. Both groups praised the meetings as positive but expressed reservations about a glossy fund-raising flyer titled “Let’s Rebuild” mailed to Ocean Grovers in late November. It stipulated that checks should be made payable to OGCMA “with ‘Now & Forever’ in the memo line.”

Home Owners president Ann Horan said her understanding is that the Camp Meeting’s “Now & Forever” fund is money that “they could take and use it for whatever they want. We think they should make it more specific.”

OGU raised a similer objection. The organization has a history of friction with the Camp Meeting, most recently over the speaking engagement of actor Kirk Cameron last summer for a Sunday worship service after Cameron had made anti-gay remarks in a television interview. Last week’s meeting between OGU and the Camp Meeting fulfilled a Camp Meeting pledge to improve communication between the two groups.

The flyer was a major topic at the meeting. “People are not comfortable giving to a general fund,” said OGU co-chair Harriet Bernstein. “They would certainly be willing to give to an earmarked fund with some accountability.” She and co-chair Luisa Paster told the Camp Meeting officials, “Everyone wants to help, but they want it dedicated to the replenishment of the beach and the boardwalk.”

Bernstein and Paster suggested that the Camp Meeting consider holding a fundraiser and also forming a coalition of community organizations to drum up financial support for rebuilding.

The Camp Meeting also met with board members of the Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce, but the “Now & Forever” issue did not come up at that meeting, said Chamber president Rich Lepore, owner of Smuggler’s Cove on Main Avenue. “I’ve heard it more from customers,” he said. “They want to give but they don’t quite know how.”

Whilden explained that the press of time was why people were asked to donate to a general fund rather than one earmarked for rebuilding. At the time the fund-raising flyer was sent out, he said, “We were planning an immediate response. We didn’t have a strong idea of where the money ought to go. We wanted flexibility to put donated funds where they needed to be.” He said that if donors specify a preference in the “For” line of their checks, such as “boardwalk” or “pier,” or specify the intended use in a letter, the Camp Meeting is legally obligated to use the money for that purpose.

Meanwhile, delCampo said, the Camp Meeting development committee is meeting Thursday and will be coming up with an alternative “for those who don’t want to give more broadly.” In addition to donations for beachfront damage, he added a plea for funds to help pay for the auditorium repair. “We cannot forget the auditorium. It is a central focus of the community as well,” he said.


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Ralph, the Ocean Grove Fisherman. Photos by Ted Aanensen

The Ocean Grove Fishing Club’s house and much of the pier it stood on may be gone, devoured by Hurricane Sandy, but the Club’s beloved mascot, Ralph, has reappeared, happily perched above the waves.

He looks more isolated than he used to, but still…

Blogfinger staff photographer Ted Aanensen noticed Ralph’s return on Sunday and filed these pictures. He is one of several people we know who were taking photos of Ralph, cheerfully emailing them to friends and posting them on Facebook for all the world to see.

Says Ted, “The first time Bob Border and Carol Boniello put Ralph up on the pier, it was in the middle of the night and there he stayed.

“He is their creation and he has adorned the fishing pier for many years, stolen, retrieved, stolen, remade, always a symbol of hope and a smile. I just saw him today and smiled. We are all back to ‘normal,’ whatever that is.”

To read Paul Goldfinger’s story, from last March, on the history of Ralph, how he cheered our town following another destructive storm two decades ago and then became the subject of a children’s book, go here.

— Charles Layton

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By Charles Layton

Mayor Randy Bishop said Saturday that next Tuesday’s election will be held as scheduled “at your normal polling place at normal polling hours.”

Speaking to a gathering at the Bishop Janes Auditorium in Ocean Grove, the mayor said a few polling places might need to be moved because of storm-related problems, but if so voters who show up at their regular polling place will be redirected from there.

Voting machines have already been moved into Ocean Grove’s main polling place at Francis Asbury Manor, which now has power. (It’s residents, evacuated before the storm, moved back in on Friday.)

The mayor also said the Neptune Senior Center is open now for people who want to drop in and get warm. A food-service organization called Barbeque Rescue has set up in the Senior Center parking lot and will continue serving meals there, from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. “until we no longer need them.”

The 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Township-wide curfew will remain in effect, Bishop said. He noted that most traffic lights are out and that driving conditions are hazardous. “I learned something during this storm,” he said. “Stop signs cease to work when there is no electricity. I had no idea.”

What is being described as a moderate northeaster is predicted for our area next Wednesday through Thursday. Weather.com is predicting rain and winds between 20 and 30 mph. Bishop said the Township is trying hard to remove debris from the streets in advance of that storm.

Although the Public Works Department is removing as many downed trees and limbs as possible, if a downed tree is entangled with severed power lines “we can’t touch them.” He urged the public to stay clear of such wires because it is unclear whether or not they may still be live.

Although Governor Christie has ordered that Halloween be postponed until next Monday, Bishop said Neptune was delaying that event even longer, due to potential dangers to trick-or-treaters. No date has been set.

Neptune schools will reopen on Wednesday. Bishop said it was important for schools to resume not just for educational reasons but because their school is the safest place many children can be, and the place where they are most likely to receive a hot meal.

The Saturday morning meeting was organized by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association in advance of an Ocean Grove-wide clean-up campaign by volunteers.

Camp Meeting Interim Administrator Ralph delCampo told the crowd that although a large part of the Great Auditorium’s roof was ripped off by the storm, there was no heavy damage to the building’s ceiling and “no apparent damage to the organ.” He said the Camp Meeting will cover the damaged portion of the roof with plywood temporarily, in advance of next week’s rain storm. The Camp Meeting meanwhile is already drawing up plans for the permanent repair of the roof.

The Camp Meeting’s new recharging station — for cell phones, laptops and other such devices — is open in the Community Room on Pilgrim Pathway. Hours are 11-6 on Saturday and 12-4 on Sunday.

Ann Horan, president of the Ocean Grove Home Owners Association, told Blogfinger that the Township “has done a wonderful job of communicating information to the home owners associations” during and after the hurricane. The only problem, she said, was the extreme difficulty the Home Owners leaders have had in passing that information on to their members.

Incidentally, lest we forget, daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday. Your cell phones will make the adjustment automatically, jumping back from 2 a.m. to 1 a.m.

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Wrecked building at the Shark River Marina. Neptune Township, NJ. Paul Goldfinger photo. Click left for full view

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.

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Our founder, Rev. Stokes, had a close brush with damage as a tree fell right in front of him. He didn’t flinch. Tough old guy. Photo by Paul Goldfinger


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.

Waiting to fill containers at the Hess station in Bradley Beach. Paul Goldfinger photo

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.

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By Mary Walton

Several Ocean Grove businesses limped back to life Wednesday morning.

The Pathway Market opened at 9 a.m. Jimmy Patel, the man behind the counter, said the first customer bought a Coke. The little corner store had no power, but it did have lots of canned goods, snacks and even some fresh vegetables.

On Main Avenue people waited patiently in line outside the Barbaric Bean while owners Joe and Margie Parrillo brewed coffee within, using a non-electric French press.

As she added creamer to her coffee, Rita Murphy said she had driven to Ocean Grove from Spring Lake because everything there is closed. “I was hoping one of these little places would be open for coffee and I’ve lucked out.”

At the fire house at Central and Olin, home to two fire companies, people were donating food before it spoiled, and volunteers were preparing it for first responders.

Damaris Adamo, owner of Salt, the Ocean Grove beachfront food service, arrived Tuesday with ice cream she had first donated at summer’s end to the Ocean Grove food pantry and reclaimed before it melted.

She brought it to the fire house and ended up cooking 200 burgers donated by the chain Cheeseburger Cheeseburger.

Many Grovers were out and about Wednesday under sunny skies. Starving Artist co-owner Arnold Teixiera was heading for home with garbage bags to empty out his freezer.

He had already jettisoned food from four refrigerators at the restaurant and was on the lookout for a garbage truck. “I’m out of garbage cans.”

He said the Asbury Park boardwalk branch of Days Ice Cream, Just Another Days, was all but destroyed by the storm surge Monday night. It burst through the plate glass window and hurled all the fixtures to the rear.

Elsewhere around town, Grovers were adjusting to the prospect of a week or longer without power. The fortunate have gas stoves and/or grills, gas hot water heaters and even gas fireplaces.

Will Brandsdorfer and Sherry Phillips of 89 Mt. Hermon Way left home for family in Edison on Monday morning after police erroneously told them everyone in town had to evacuate.

They came home Tuesday to a refrigerator of warming food — but not to worry. “We’re vegetarians,” Sherry said. “We can eat canned food. We have lots and lots of garbanzos.”

With two cars, they are using one as a charging station and reserving the other for an emergency. Will can work from home, Sherry said. So that’s where they will stay “as long as he can keep powering his computers.”

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The Ocean Grove pier. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

UPDATE, 11:30 p.m. Wednesday — The Neptune Township website has posted an item about how to apply for FEMA assistance. If you’ve suffered storm damage, click here and then scroll down to “FEMA ASSISTANCE.”

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. Wednesday — All Neptune Township schools will be closed Thursday and Friday. All special school programs and activities have been cancelled or postponed. Before and After Care will not be available. And the Aquatic Center will be closed. Source: Neptune School District website.

UPDATE, 6:45 p.m. Wednesday — USA Today said this about our local power blackout: “An estimated 90 percent of residents in Monmouth and Ocean counties were without power, and it will be days if not weeks before the lights come back on.” The Asbury Park Press, based on company sources, reported on its website just minutes ago that JCP&L has restored power to about 160,000 customers throughout its service area but that about 940,000 are still in the dark. “The majority will be restored within the next seven days,” says the APP,  but “Customers in the hardest-hit areas will take an additional seven days on top of that.” The Newark Star-Ledger quoted President Obama as saying the “top priority” in New Jersey is getting the power back on.

UPDATE, 5:10 p.m. Wednesday — Neptune Mayor Randy Bishop announced today that a township-wide curfew is in effect from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. “for all residents until further notice.” The announcement appears on the Township’s website. We’re pretty sure he meant from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The website also reports this with regard to the power blackout: “JCP&L has advised that it will be 10 to 15 days for power restoration.” The website adds that power has started to come back in some areas, particularly West Neptune. However, it says, “this may re-energize downed wires so continue to use extreme caution.”

And finally, Governor Chris Christie has directed that Halloween celebration be rescheduled from tonight to Monday, November 5 throughout New Jersey.


By Paul Goldfinger, Mary Walton and Charles Layton

Hardly any businesses were open in the Neptune area on Wednesday due to lack of power.

This included gas stations, because the pumps don’t work without electricity.

People are growing desperate to recharge their phones and other devices, but there are very few places to do that. Because of the demand, Wegmans was allowing each person 30 minutes access to their outlets — to recharge, to email and to grab some quick news on the Internet. Some people brought power strips so they could charge all their devices at once.

In Ocean Grove, basements on Broadway are flooded two to four feet deep. Sawbucks Construction was helping people pump out the water on Wednesday morning. The flooding is particularly hard on people who live in basement apartments.

Residents in that stricken neighborhood are pitching in to help one another. One woman with a gas-powered fireplace has invited people to come in and warm up. The temperature fell into the mid-40s overnight.

It remains unclear how long the power blackout may last, but news reports and power company spokesmen do not seem optimistic. Some are saying the power could still be out over large areas by next week’s election. It was not immediately clear how the election could be conducted without electricity.

“This storm may never be duplicated in our lifetime,” Deputy Mayor Eric Houghtaling told Blogfinger in an email late Tuesday night. “The Township was well prepared and will continue nonstop until cleanup is complete.”

Houghtaling and other officials held a meeting Tuesday night at the Midtown Community School, which has been used as Neptune’s emergency operations center. He said fire safety is a major concern. The hundreds of downed trees on the western side of the Township are also a large problem.

Houghtaling said the damage in low-lying parts of Shark River Hills “is unbelievable. High tide 13 feet 2 inches above normal high tide. It has never happened before.” Committeewoman Mary Beth Jahn said the storm had lifted boats into people’s yards.

Transportation is another problem. New Jersey Transit is down for an indefinite period. AMTRAK has resumed limited service to Newark but not to New York City because of the flooded tnnnels. Nearly all bus service in New Jersey was suspended. EZ-Pass is working, but car travel is said to be problematic in some areas, in part due to lack of gasoline. Those few gas stations that were open Wednesday reportedly had enormous lines of cars.

Home Depot is one of the few stores, other than Wegmans, that was open in our area on Wednesday morning. The Township said Foodtown in Ocean Township was also open. These large stores are operating on generator power, something not possible for most smaller businesses.

One sign of a return to normalcy: the Township says it will resume regular garbage pickup on Thursday.

To read our Tuesday story on Hurricane Sandy, which includes an assessment of the major damage in Ocean Grove, click here.


Let’s cheer ourselves up with some music. Here is The Band:

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Hours after this picture was taken, the fishing shack at the end of the pier was destroyed by the waves. Photo by Mary Walton

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.

Deputy Mayor Eric Houghtaling signs emergency declaration. Photo by Mary Walton

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.

Boarded up Ocean Grove businesses await the storm’s arrival. Photo by Paul Goldfinger

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