William Nelson spent much of Wednesday morning taking pictures to document the damage to his home in the Reeds Beach section of Middle Township.
“It’s devastating,” Nelson said as he walked around his bayside home and explained that floodwaters pushed the supports under the two-bedroom wood-frame house. “It actually moved. The house leaned back.”
“The whole house is undermined,” he said, but he added he was luckier than some. “I’m lucky it’s still here. It can be saved.”
The property was one of many damaged in the section of the township — at least a half-dozen homes have been condemned and notices marking them as “unsafe structures” placed on their doors. The damage was among the most severe in Cape May County.
On Wednesday, property owners across the county were trying to return home, clean up and assess the damage that Hurricane Sandy left behind.
In West Wildwood, Joe Brown used a broom to push debris and water away from his Glenwood Avenue home.
“I didn’t get water in the house,” Brown said, noting that some of his neighbors were not as fortunate. Water did reach the top of his front steps and there was water under the house still, he said.
In 11 years here, “this is the worst I’ve seen.”
Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the town, which allowed residents to return Wednesday morning, was cleaning up, but thankfully was spared the worst.
“We have been blessed to have gotten through this with minimal damage. (We have) nothing compared to the other island communities,” he said.
The city and its Five Mile Beach neighbors experienced flooding and some wind damage as well as beach erosion in North Wildwood.
North Wildwood’s beachfront gazebo at Third Avenue had to be demolished because its foundation adjacent to the seawall was undermined, Public Works employee Sean McDermott said as he and other crew members worked at the site before 8 a.m.
City Council President Patrick Rosenello was with Stewart Farrell of the Stockton Coastal Research Center on Wednesday as they surveyed the beach and the storm’s impact.
Rosenello said the city also brought in a private firm, Perna Finnegan Construction, to help with the debris removal and Waste Management brought in Dumpsters.
Sea Isle City was allowing residents and business owners back into town by Wednesday afternoon, but Mayor Len Desiderio urged those returning not to joyride.
The city’s streets still had floodwaters in some places along with mounds of sand and debris.
City Hall on Landis Avenue had about 10 inches of water inside at the height of the flooding, city employees said as they worked to dry the building.
The carpets were torn out and furniture and files moved to make way for giant fans that would dry the interior. Some wall panels were also ripped down to check for any possibility of mold growth.
Middle Township Mayor Dan Lockwood, meanwhile, said the township was still assessing the damage to its bayfront communities.
“At least one or two homes are missing and six to eight homes are totaled or not able to be occupied,” he said of the Reeds Beach area where at least one house had completely been smashed after being knocked off its piling.
In Cape May, Mayor Ed Mahaney said the city was cleaning up and actually preparing for the start of a beach-replenishment project that had been in the works long before Hurricane Sandy.
The project, supported by state and federal dollars, will add sand to the end of Beach Drive at Cove Beach. That replenishment is slated to start in about three weeks.
Cape May County spokeswoman Lenora Boninfante said Wednesday afternoon that the county had not officially issued a re-entry order but that individual communities are allowing residents back.
“As they get approval to re-enter, just follow the directions of law enforcement and take precautions because there is still debris throughout the county,” she said.
Two shelters were still operating in Woodbine and Upper Township as of Wednesday afternoon, but that will change as residents head back to their hometowns.
County government is operating and all libraries except for the one in Sea Isle City were open, she said.
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