Some Mantoloking residents finally return after Sandy

Hurricane Sandy damage in Mantoloking

February 22, 2013 3:18:30 PM PST
For the first time in almost four months, some residents are living again in Mantoloking, a New Jersey beach town that suffered some of the worst damage from Hurricane Sandy.

In fact, every single one of Mantoloking's 521 homes were impacted in some way by the hurricane. Of those, 60 are gone and another 140 will have to be demolished.

Doug and Joyce Propaca are among the lucky ones - they have a home to go back to.

"It's terrific for us. We feel for our neighbors. A lot of them lost their homes completely," Doug said.

Joyce says she's heartbroken because Mantoloking is still very much a ghost town.

"It doesn't look like my town," she said. "Besides the houses that are missing, the trees are gone, the landmarks are gone."

Now back in his house, Hank Rzemieniewski chokes up thinking about the hundreds who may never be able to move back in.

"It a little guilty, that we can walk in and have the comforts that are here," he said.

There's a curfew in town and still a heavy police presence to keep strangers away from the houses.

"They're not only a threat hazard, but people's belongings and stuff are still in there and we want to secure them," said Chief Mark Wright of the Mantoloking Police.

The cleanup will take months, even years. Still, it's what you can't see that's a big concern - the untold amounts of debris hidden in the ocean and the bay.

"Automobiles, cars, boats and, of course, we have five or six houses in the bay," said Bob McIntyre of Mantoloking Emergency Management. "Lots of foundations of houses with rebar sticking out ,we have floating roofs that move from place to place."

The first residents may be back, but it'll be a long while before many of their neighbors can join them.