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Atlantic City crews assessing flood damage to homes; water level not as bad as predicted

Southern New Jersey residents are assessing the damage from overnight coastal flooding and continued strong winds from a northeaster that has gradually moved up the coast.

Shifting winds during the night helped tidal flooding stay just below the moderate range along the oceanfront. However, continued flooding in back bays has kept the water level there much higher.

The peak storm tide in Atlantic City reached 6.94 feet just after 3:20 a.m., according to the National Ocean Service gauge on Steel Pier. The moderate flooding threshold is 7 feet in Atlantic City.

Despite the reduced flood level, between 400 and 500 homes suffered some type of flood damage in Atlantic City, said emergency operations director Tom Foley. Some streets directly along the bay had up to 4 feet of water in them at the height of the tide early this morning, he said.

However, Atlantic City code enforcement director Rick Russo said he could not verify that level of damage and said the only calls his office received were for wind-related damage. Wind damage that occurred in the city, Russo said, was mostly with houses that had been weakened by Sandy and either were under repairs or repairs had not yet started.

A coastal flood warning is in effect until Friday morning due to the potential for moderate level flooding. Forecasters have warned that continued onshore winds may trap water in the back bays, causing more significant level flooding until Friday.

Wayne Dull, of Ocean City, lives on Simpson Avenue, where he said, flooding is typical and wind blowing over chairs and umbrellas is expected.

"We're sick of it," he said. "We're done. We're moving offshore, far away from water."

Damage in the Wildwoods is minimal and early morning walkers and joggers were on the city's Boardwalk.

Beach replenishment crews were moving around sand in Ocean City's north end this morning after the dredge took safe harbor near Longport during the storm. It wasn't apparent if much sand had been eroded from the project that started weeks ago.

Four people were relocated overnight after a roof collapsed at an apartment building in Chelsea Village, but there were no other evacuations, Foley said.

The beach between Steel Pier and Garden Pier also suffered significant sand loss, but the dunes were fine, Foley said.

Workers at Revel shoveled wind-swept sand off the boardwalk in front of the resort. Numerous tiles flew off the roof at Garden Pier, smashing on to the deck. But inside the Atlantic City Historical Society museum, there was no water damage, said Maureen Frank, director of the Atlantic City Library. “Thank goodness. We’re hoping to reopen soon,” she said.

The water in parts of Ventnor Heights came up in some places more than 1 foot deep and debris from the flooding littered the streets. Dunes on the beach had no obvious damage, though there was a small amount of beach erosion near the Ventnor Fishing Pier.

Officials in Cumberland County reported few overnight problems. All roads and schools are open, and initial reports indicate damage was primarily relegated to some broken tree limbs.

Municipal emergency management officials also report that the county’s small Delaware Bay communities were spared the flooding that destroyed homes and damaged protective bulkheads and dikes during Hurricane Sandy and other recent storms.

“It wasn’t as bad as they said it was going to be,” said Downe Township Emergency Management Coordinator James Lupton. “Everything is open this morning.”

Downe Township is home to Delaware Bay communities such as Fortescue, Gandys Beach and Money Island. Much of the estimated $30 million in damage that the township suffered during Hurricane Sandy occurred in Fortescue and Gandys Beach.

Lupton said there are few residents living in those communities at this time of year, and no evacuations were needed.

Commercial Township Emergency Management Coordinator Fred Hundt said tide levels were “well below” what was expected.

The rural township has small communities like Mauricetown, Shellpile and Bivalve along the Maurice River. Dikes that hold back the river and Delaware Bay were damaged during Hurricane Sandy.

Hundt said one dike has a “small leak in it,” but is otherwise holding.

“We seem to be fine,” he said.

Authorities in Bridgeton, Millville and Vineland reported no significant problems related to the storm.

Vineland fire officials said their biggest problem overnight was freeing a man who had locked himself inside a laundromat.

About 500 Atlantic City Electric customers are without power as of 11:30 a.m., down from more than 20,000 before midnight.

Crews restored a damaged substation and transmission lines in Margate early this morning, restoring power to about 19,000 customers in Atlantic City, Ventnor, Margate and Longport before sunrise. About 200 of those customers are still without electricity, according to the utility’s online reporting map.

Staff writers Lee Procida, Thomas Barlas and Trudi Gilfillian contributed to this report.

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