Mantoloking Residents To Return Home After Sandy [AUDIO]
One hundred and twenty-seven days after Superstorm Sandy hit the Garden State, residents of, arguably, the hardest hit municipality will finally be allowed to return home.
The borough of Mantoloking begins accepting homeowners back on Friday, February 22nd. During a press conference in the Borough Fire Department Wednesday, Mayor George Nebel was joined by other officials, and said he doesn't expect many residents to move back right away because of the extensive damage throughout. However, he noted Governor Christie's lifting of the emergency evacuation order- the last in the state- is a big deal.
"After a long, but understandable wait, many of residents will be able to return to their homes. Unfortunately, many other residents no longer have a home to go to."
For the evacuation order to be lifted, the borough had to show all utilities had been restored and it would be safe for residents to return. The damage was so severe in Mantoloking, debris was being removed into mid-February.
To assist the transition back, state police and local law enforcement presence will remain high within the borough. Mayor George Nebel notes residents will be required to register prior to repopulating and will be issued both resident's identification passes as well as placards for their cars. A curfew will remain from 7 am to 6 pm throughout the week and side streets will remain open only to residents and credentialed contractors only.
Beach access remains closed due to the large amount of debris still clogging the access points.
"You can see for yourself, basically if you look at the beach access points, we have homes in all of the beach access points. It's just not safe to get to the beach right now," says Chris Nelson, Special Counsel for the borough.
He adds the borough's public works department, alongside with FEMA, will work to get the beaches open sometime in June. Mayor Nebel says they will first clear out the beach association sections where most people swim.
Sixty homes along the ocean were completely destroyed by the storm and almost one hundred and forty are uninhabitable, a large percentage for a borough with only 520 residents, many of them seasonal. Nebel says, to his knowledge, the borough only has 298 registered voters.
"Right now we're working with the homeowners to figure out what to do," says Nelson, noting every home in the 2.2 mile municipality was in some way damaged by water.
He explained that, even though residents are able to return, they are a far ways away from normalcy and requests travelers refrain from stopping and taking photos of the destruction.
"We ask that all residents and all visitors remain respectful of that loss as they travel throughout the borough."