VINELAND - Patience has just about run out for many residents in the Vineland Hills mobile home park since the June 30 storm tore through the facility.
About half of the park's more than 100 homes were still without electricity on Wednesday, forcing many residents to continue to use portable generators to produce the power needed just to cool their homes enough so they can sleep through the night.
Massive trees are still down, including a few that crashed through some mobile homes when the winds blew through early on June 30. Cumberland County officials said eight homes in the park were destroyed. One resident is recovering from a leg seriously damaged when a tree fell through her home.
Anthony Benoit and his mother, Pauline Eder, are hoping to salvage their Mark Anthony Drive home that was twisted on its foundation when the winds blew. The roof is also damaged, floors are buckled, pipes are cracked and windows are out of alignment, he said.
Benoit said he and his mother are only staying at the property during the day because looters are going through Vineland Hills. Benoit said a lawn mower, leaf blower and other equipment was stolen form work shed this past weekend. Eder said someone stole a neighbor's two pug dogs.
But Benoit said what angers residents the most is park management that has for years ignored requests for trees to be trimmed and power lines to be improved. Residents still do not now what kind of clean-up action - such as cutting down damaged trees - they can take because they only rent the land on which their homes sit, he said.
"They refuse to speak to residents," Benoit said.
"They don't tell you nothing," said Mark Anthony Drive resident Catherine Marianna.
City Municipal Utilities Director Joseph Isabella cqtold City Council on Tuesday that "we're running into interference" from park management in connection with power restoration efforts.
Isabella said many power lines in the park, which is located in the 1300 block of North East Boulevard, are blocked by fences and sheds. Park officials told VMEU work crews to just bulldoze the fences and sheds to get to the power lines, he said.
"We weren't going to do that," Isabella said.
Park management relented to threatened legal action by the city this week and allowed VMEU to install new utility poles along Vineland Hills streets, he said. Those new poles will make it easier to provide electric service to the community, and give VMEU better access for future power restoration or upgrade efforts, he said.
Isabella said he feels sorry for Vineland Hills residents.
"They're really caught in the middle," he said.
Park management did not respond to requests from The Press of Atlantic City for comment.
The June 30 storm cut a swath of destruction through South Jersey. Cumberland County officials said this city appeared to be hit hardest by the storm, and that at least 3,000 homes were damaged. City officials set the damage estimate for public and private property at around $100 million.
A convoy of VMEU trucks rolled into Vineland Hills again on Wednesday. VMEU crews had earlier restored power to residents on Roaslie and Jennifer drives. VMEU officials said they're trying to restore power to the rest of the park as quickly as possible.
Marianna, who has lived in the park for 20 years, said conditions at Vineland Hills were "horrible" since the storm.
"Oh, lord," she said. "The heat was terrible."
She and her husband, Sal, bought a generator last week. She said they only run it to provide power for the air conditioners at night.
Another Mark Anthony Drive resident, Maribel Martinez, a school bus driver for the local school district, said she's staying with relatives as much as possible. Family and friends are providing her with food "care packages," she said.
Martinez said park residents are helping each other as much as possible, but there's only so much they can do without electricity.
Benoit, a 45-year-old construction worker, said the Salvation Army and Red Cross have done a wonderful job of helping Vineland Hills residents, providing them with needed food, water and ice. Benoit said the Red Cross gave vouchers to him and his mother so they could stay at a local hotel because of the damage to their home.
But Eder said neither she nor her neighbors want to go though anything like this again.
"It's been a hell of an experience," she said.