Parts of Jersey Shore Still in Ruins 6 Months After Sandy
I remember going down to New Orleans as an intern with our sister station to do a charity toy drop off 5 months after Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.
We walked through the hardest hit Lower 9th Ward, and I remember wondering how it could all look so untouched and so destroyed after that much time...but after a drive this weekend, now I get it.
I never really drive along Rt. 35 in Ocean County. Aside from work, most of my time is spent in Monmouth County and parts north.
On Friday I left work a little early and had some time to spare, so I drove over to Seaside, and decided to finally take 35 home...not sure what I should prepare myself to see.
I have seen recent videos of Ortley Beach and Normandy Beach, so I know there is still sand everywhere and random houses toppled over...but I still wasn't ready.
Passing through Mantoloking was probably the hardest part.
Those beautiful beachfront mansions that I was always so jealous of have been torn apart, some seemingly abandoned. It's not just one or two houses turned onto their sides...they are plentiful.
Some of them seem like dollhouses...with the backs opened up so you can see inside. But they aren't toys. They belong to someone.
They are still in ruins. It's been 6 months...and it's as if it happened last week.
When I was in New Orleans, the hardest part was seeing the inspection markers on the houses...it signified that emergency officials had gone through, and depending on the number listed, how many bodies had been found inside.
While I saw some of those inspection markers as I drove...I didn't see any numbers. Out of 285 total fatalities, there were 5 deaths in Monmouth and Ocean Counties related to Sandy. (Compare that to the more than 1800 people who didn't make it through Katrina.)
The one glimmer of hope is all the construction vehicles I saw. People are working hard to put everything back together, and there are so many signs promising that businesses will return and that Sandy can't keep us down.
I've driven through Sea Bright, Union Beach, and Highlands, and I know that area was devastated as well, but for some reason, seeing Mantoloking and Bay Head hit me especially hard.
Perhaps it's because I remember hearing more about those areas during the storm, and how long it was before anyone was allowed back to those towns.
I didn't stop to take any pictures during my drive, and I didn't slow down to gawk...I kind of felt it would be rude. I know if that happened to my house, I'd be pissed if people were coming by to take pictures as if it were a tourist attraction while I was still trying to put my life back together.
Seeing it firsthand was important though, as it reminded me that it is still very much a reality for those living in coastal towns.
There is still lots of work to be done, and plenty of people who need help.
It's easy to forget about when you don't see it all the time...but it was certainly a reality check for me.