Life was quiet all over Ventnor the day after Sandy struck, but that may have been about the only thing that was consistent in the storm's effects.

In some parts of town, people were talking about how lucky they got. In others, the main topic was how badly they got hit.

Dr. Bob Brown, an "almost retired" dentist and longtime member of the Atlantic City Beach Patrol, said about the worst thing he saw in a morning tour of Ventnor's Boardwalk was a house with its windows blown out.

Brown, 79, has been around Absecon Island long enough to remember the historic northeaster of 1962. To him, that one was much worse.

"In '62, we did not have dunes. And in '62, the Boardwalk went," Brown said, adding that he left his dry home for a wet, windy walk on the boards because that house -- like most of Absecon Island -- had no electricity.

"I had to come out," he said, "to get warm."

But a few blocks toward Margate, Bob Barnes, another veteran of Ventnor life, saw things differently.

"I've been here for 50 years," said Barnes, the manager of the beachfront Cambridge House condo building, "and this is the worst I've ever seen."

Barnes watched the storm come in Monday night from a window with a perfect view of Ventnor's fishing pier. He saw wave after wave slamming through the deck of the pier -- although that deck appeared undamaged on Tuesday. That was contrary to repeated rumors that the storm knocked out a piece of the pier.

But his view did show Barnes how that rumor might have started. As he watched the waves come in, the manager saw something big floating in.

"At first, I thought it was a house," he said. "But then I said, 'Oh, that's a container.'"

And that truck-trailer-sized container still sat washed up on the dune next to the pier Tuesday.

The city's dunes also held the evidence of how random the storm's damage could be. About six Hobie Cat sailboats, which sat safe on the beach all summer, ended up tossed all over the dunes -- most of the boats damaged beyond repair, with masts snapped or pieces of pontoons chopped off.

But two boats ended up deposited by the ocean about 5 feet apart -- one with its frame broken in half, and the other apparently almost unhurt.

At one of the high spots on the island, Somerset Avenue, almost no damage was visible -- except for a tall pine tree that fell on an SUV near the corner of Atlantic Avenue.

A resident, who declined to be identified, said her vehicle appeared to be mostly OK, despite the thin end of the tree on top of it. Her main concern was that a utility pole next to the tree -- with two transformers on top -- was also swaying in the winds as Sandy blew through the town.

Down by the bay, Frank and Julie Mealo were looking at the damage to their home, which included 3 feet of water in their basement and a full-sized, late-model refrigerator knocked over.

"The refrigerator looks like a coffin now," Frank said. "Somehow, it floated sideways."

The couple pointed out the high-water lines on neighbors' houses, but there was a bit of good news in the debris line on the bay side of their own home: It stopped near the top step to their back deck, meaning it was just inches short of coming in their first floor.

Out in the street, most of the contents of a neighbor's garage were washed up near the 4-foot-high bulkhead, which was topped by debris the bay left behind. Julie Mealo said that at the height of the storm, they could see bay water running unbroken from Ventnor Avenue down their street and then covering at least the first block across the bridge in Ventnor Heights.

"You could see no meadow at all," she added Tuesday, when, with the tide down, endless acres of marshy meadow stretched toward the mainland.

That bayfront location -- near the drains designed to let storm water flow into the bay -- showed these residents some interesting sights in Sandy.

"We had two (empty) propane tanks out in the street," Frank Mealo said, "circling like sharks."

Contact Martin DeAngelis:

609-272-7237

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