Atlantic City boardwalk takes brunt of Sandy

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - October 30, 2012

The casinos are lit up and most of the traffic lights have power on Atlantic Avenue, but it is the eerily dark neighborhoods that have kept police busy Tuesday night.

There are generator-powered lights on some corners in Atlantic City and surrounding communities, but they are no match for the wide spread darkness.

Atlantic City police were out in full force, and Action News was at Harrisburg and Ventnor Avenues when they took a woman suspected of looting into custody.

Manuel Reales, his wife and their five children have been sitting in the dark since Sandy hit the shore Monday.

"It is terrible being with no lights," said Manuel. "We got kids in here and we using flashing lights, it's really bad."

The lack of power and the destruction are the primary reasons so many have not been allowed to return.

"I thought, oh my god, there's devastation all over the bay right now; it's just incredible," said Ruthann Wheeler.

Just outside Ocean City, Ocean Drive is a mess. The Somers Point, Longport Bridge has downed utility poles. And at the Margate Boulevard Bridge, police were forced to turn people away while crews worked to secure the storm ravaged area.

There is still a lot clean up that has to be done before residents will be allowed back into the area.

Hotels are sold out from Atlantic City all the way up to Vineland, which about 40 miles away.

One group of residents who actually wanted to evacuate were left stranded.

At the Ocean Apartment high rise at 101 Boardwalk, a generator provided power to hallways and common areas, but not to the apartments. Many residents attempted to cook their meals on BBQ grills out in the garage.

Many of them had tried to evacuate as ordered by Governor Christie, but residents say the bus that was supposed to pick them up at 4:00 p.m. Sunday never showed.

Red Cross spokesman Todd James told Action News that Atlantic City authorities have advised him that any residents who want to evacuate to a shelter and needs transportation should contact the police who will arrange to pick them up.

Several blocks of the Boardwalk - the first in the nation - were destroyed by Sandy. The boardwalk past the most popular attractions, and where most tourists would walk, was still intact.

However, farther north, it was a wreck. Jumbled timbers that made up the boardwalk by the inlet were in piles on the beach.

While some boards were on the shore, some came to rest in nearby streets.

Zelphia Connor lives near the location where Sandy destroyed a 300 yard section of the Boardwalk - some of it ended up rushing into Connors' garage and those of a number of her neighbors who live on St. Katherine Place.

"The waves were crashing against the garage. I can see them coming over the boardwalk. Very strong winds, it was a scary situation because the house was shaking," Connor said.

South of that area, the damage was less intense. However, there was plenty of evidence that a storm moved through. There was standing water and plenty of debris.

There was even a damaged traffic signal swaying in the wind by a high-rise.

There did not appear to be any damage to structures by the ocean, which took the brunt of the storm.

Carol Mason returned to her bay front home in Atlantic City on Tuesday morning to find it sodden from floodwaters that washed through overnight. The carpets squished as she stepped on them; cans of beer and soda she had stored on the porch had washed inside the house.

She had just made the final mortgage payment on the house last week.

"Oh my God," she exclaimed. "I have insurance, but..." she said, her voice trailing off.

Mason initially tried to ride out the storm, despite a mandatory evacuation order. But looking out a bathroom window, she saw the bay waters rapidly rising, and re-thought that plan.

"I looked at the bay and saw the fury in it," she said. "I knew it was time to go."

Kim Johnson was another one who tried to stay during the storm. When the front door to her home blew off Monday afternoon, she fled.

"It's just stuff," the nursing student said of her ruined possessions. "That will be fine. It's the near-term things I'm more concerned about, like how I'm going to get to class."

Presently, the Red Cross says some 258 people remain in shelters and that number is likely to rise.

"As the floodwaters start to recede and with the storm being over, people are now being able to get back to their homes and see what damage has been caused. Many, unfortunately, are going to find that their home isn't a place they can stay right now, so they're going to need a place to stay," Todd James of the American Red Cross said.

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