Storm knocks OC lifeguards off their perch

Pictured: A broken lifeguard chair on the beach in Ocean City, New Jersey.

July 26, 2011 3:26:56 PM PDT
A broken and splintered mess is what's left of 13 Ocean City lifeguard stands that were blown apart during Sunday's wild weather.

The microburst that roared through sent sheets of rain and debris through the streets and was so powerful it sent lifeguard boats cartwheeling up the beach.

? "We had a couple stands that were ripped to shreds, just pieces on the side. We found a top at one place on the side in a dune, the bottom was a couple blocks down," said Lt. Dennis Swan of the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

10 of those fiberglass lifeguard boats have been seriously damaged, some beyond repair.

? "I don't even know if this boat will float right now, to be honest. It would probably just sink and become a reef," said senior lifeguard Scott Pepe. "We've lost almost half our fleet of boats."

? At the Beach Patrol Boathouse guards have been scrambling to build new lifeguard stands to replace the broken ones.

? "We're trying to build 10 stands all at once. The whole idea is trying to get them primed, cut and putting them together," said senior lifeguard Bill Dorney.

In the meantime some guards are keeping watch from beach chairs, giving them a much lower vantage point than they're used to.

? "We can definitely see a lot more up on top of the stand so I can't wait until we get it back, then we can start guarding a little bit better," said lifeguard Kyle Evangelist. "We have to be on our feet a lot more."

? "We've never seen them actually sitting and I'm wondering how they can manage everything," said Aileen Wanzer of Chalfont, Pa. "I think it must be pretty hard to see everybody."

Guards are working hard to make it happen and hope to have all the replacement stands finished and on the beach by Saturday.