LBI community ravaged by Sandy reopens

November 27, 2012 3:50:18 PM PST
Homeowners are getting their first look at a Long Beach Island community that was among the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.

Holgate is where the Atlantic Ocean met the bay when the storm hit last month. Water rushed under oceanfront homes after breaching vulnerable dunes.

All Holgate residents were allowed to return home as of 7 a.m. Tuesday.

"I had a garden here," said resident Al Vallese.

Vallese used to have landscaping around his now flooded-out home but that's gone. And many of his possessions, including pictures of his grandson, are piled at the curb.

"When I first saw it I was shocked," he told Action News. "I mean this is my home, I live here year round."

"It's devastating for everybody down here," said Mark Morella. "Four and a half feet of water in all the houses that didn't get sand, and you have ones that were destroyed. I mean sand through the bottom floors. A lot of them floated up off their foundations."

Because of the extent of damage here, Holgate is the last town to give residents full access to their houses.

New Jersey Natural Gas crews over the weekend completed the re-pressurization of the gas main on Long Beach Island and natural gas is now available to almost all customers.

With water, sewer, power and gas restored, it's no longer a danger.

What residents are facing now is digging out from the mountains of sand that washed into the streets and into and under houses.

"The strategy is, you come in with the machines and the hand labor and dig out around the house," said contractor Jeff Larkin. "And then the follow-up process is the pump truck comes in with a big suction hose."

A big concern is the mold, which Jason Maxwell showed me is already growing along the high water mark in his garage.

"So basically all the drywall's going to have to come off and we're going to have a restoration company come in," he said.

The owner of the Jolly Roger Motel says he'll clean up the mess and go on.

"We plan on being open in the summer again," said Steve Groshardt. "That's what we've done. We've had it for 35 years so we'll be open again."

"Holgate by Memorial Day will look 90% of what it did look like prior to the storm," said Mayor Joseph Mancini.

The effort to rebuild the wiped-out dunes here at the bottom of LBI is continuing. And Al Vallese has a message for the oceanfront house owners who've objected to dune-building projects:

"They're worried about their views, but look around you," he said. "Look how we're paying for their views."

Meanwhile, Mantoloking closed access to the hard-hit town because of the wintry weather Tuesday.

Toms River says it has issued 2,430 permits for repairs on its barrier island.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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