TUCKERTON — Three empty lots sit on Parker Road in the Tuckerton Beach section where three homes once stood on the bay.
Pieces of the houses are now across the street in a neighbor’s front yard.
From the mangled mess of debris, it is possible to tell that the pile was once a house. The empty piling where the homes once stood provide a bayfront view to neighbors with severely damaged homes just across the street.
“Those houses blew right into our yard. There was nothing anyone could do to prepare for this. I have a house in my front yard and a boat in my backyard,” said Parker Road homeowner Joy Cioce, of Old Tappan, Bergen County.
Cioce stood on the street as her neighbors dug through piles of plates, silverware and broken glass looking for any piece of what was once their homes. She said she drove two hours Saturday morning to Tuckerton Beach after borough officials opened it at 8 a.m. Saturday, to see for herself the damage that Hurricane Sandy did to her second home of 10 years.
“I was sitting up there at home worrying a tree would fall on my house there, because we live in the woods. There was nothing we could do to prepare down here,” said Cioce, who does not have flood insurance, because she said the area hasn’t flooded in 100 years.
The Tuckerton Beach section had been closed by police to residents and the public as flooding receded and crews worked to clean up downed power lines and address gas leaks. Most residents evacuated from the area earlier this week, although some stayed through the storm.
Tuckerton Mayor George “Buck” Evans said 32 homes were destroyed, 260 were heavily damaged and 258 sustained minor damage. Officials said seven homes were thrown from their foundations or piling and simply disappeared.
A few streets from Parker Road, homeowners on Heron Road were trying to make the best of a catastrophic situation.
“I love Tuckerton. I will rebuild, but we’ll need help. This house has to either be lifted up or destroyed,” homeowner Vincent Ioia said.
Ioia’s parents bought the home in 1962, shortly after the March Storm, for $4,200, he said.
“And it made it this long, 50 years until the next storm,” he said.
The small, white home of Ioia’s neighbor Terry Smith, of Wyckoff, Bergen County, is now across the street in Ioia’s front yard. Smith has owned the home for five years.
“Arrest him, officer, he stole my house. Here’s the evidence right here. Throw him in jail,” Smith joked to Tuckerton police Sgt. Chris Anderson, who laughed.
“Really, you got to laugh, or otherwise you’ll cry,” Ioia said while standing in his driveway next to Smith’s broken-down home.
Both homes were built in 1957. Smith said that if the Federal Emergency Management Agency will help him, he will rebuild.
“Look at that view,” Smith said as he pointed across the street to the sun shining on the bay. “It’s beautiful. That’s why I came here.”
Evans, whose own home is on Tarpon Road, walked through Tuckerton Beach all day Saturday, speaking with residents and dealing with his own devastation.
“There is so much devastation. There are houses on other people’s properties. There are boats thrown through people’s homes,” Evans said.
From 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday, Tuckerton Beach was like “Tear City,” and homeowners were depressed after getting their first glimpses of the damage, Evans said. Once residents saw the destruction, they understood why the borough blocked access earlier in the week, he said.
“I sat down with my daughter Jerilynn, and I just cried for about 15 minutes. I cried for my town, I cried for my family, my friends and my home. But we will rebuild,” he said.
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