Emergency declarations issued for 6 NJ counties

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - November 15, 2009

The six - Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Cumberland, Monmouth and Ocean - were among those areas where beaches and dunes were heavily damaged by the storm system born from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ida.

The declaration will likely allow New Jersey to receive federal money to help towns, residents and businesses pay for repairs, which could cost several million dollars. Work to develop preliminary damage assessments began Sunday morning, and officials hoped to conclude that effort by noon Monday.

"That will set the stage for us to move forward" with efforts to eventually have President Barack Obama issue an emergency declaration for the region, state police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said during a conference call with reporters. That would make it easier for the state and residents to receive federal aid to rebuild.

Fuentes and other state emergency management officials declined to provide a storm damage estimate, saying it would be wrong to speculate before the data was collected. But he said several hundred homes and about 50 to 100 businesses were affected by the storm, which also caused significant beach erosion and flooding along the Jersey Shore.

The storm - which contained heavy rains and strong, gusty winds - pounded the state for more than three days. It also was blamed for the apparent deaths of three fishermen who vanished when their boat sank in rough seas Wednesday night.

State police Maj. Dennis McNulty, deputy director of the state Office of Emergency Management, noted that the storm did not drop as much rain on the state as previous nor'easters, with only about 1 to 4 inches reported. However, the combination of persistent rain and strong, gusty winds over three tide cycles proved to be devastating, particularly on the barrier islands in Atlantic and Cape May counties where waters from the back bays flooded numerous streets.

The storm also spurred moderate to major flooding in other areas and caused scattered power outages throughout the state. It also wrecked dunes in several coastal communities including Ocean City, Atlantic City, and on Long Beach Island, where a beach replenishment project is partially finished.

However, McNulty noted no mandatory evacuations were ordered, which he and Fuentes credited in part to the preparation and work of local emergency management officials and first responders throughout the state.

"They were not overwhelmed by (the storm), they were ready for it and they looked out for their residents in a fantastic way," Fuentes said.

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