The owner of Fred’s Tavern in Stone Harbor didn’t even hoist his beer cases to higher ground, something he does when he worries flooding might destroy the stock of lagers and ales.
But Winter Storm Jonas caught Tom Hand and Cape May County by surprise a year ago Sunday. The powerful nor’easter caused record flooding that surpassed Hurricane Sandy in some parts of the county and has sparked a conversation about the idea of evacuations before future nor’easters.
“We lost a lot of kitchen and bar equipment,” said Hand, who closed Fred’s for four days after Jonas, a short period compared to some other businesses.
Wind gusts reached as high as 65 mph on South Jersey’s barrier islands, and some areas saw record tidal flooding. It was the strongest nor’easter to strike the area since December 1992.
Jonas caused an estimated $66.8 million in damage in Cape May County — 75 percent of it from beach erosion — according to Martin Pagliughi, county emergency management coordinator and mayor of Avalon. The storm caused $2.5 million worth of damage in Atlantic County and $82 million statewide.
Keith Laudeman, owner of the Lobster House on Cape May Harbor, closed his restaurant for a month, repairing water-damaged wood and carpets and replacing equipment.
“It was the intensity of the storm that caught everybody by surprise,” Pagliughi said.
He said he has been thinking about coastal storm evacuations since before Sandy in 2012.
But Jonas provided further proof it is an idea with merit.
“Evacuations before a nor’easter wouldn’t work the same as a hurricane, as we’d leave it up to each municipality and therefore they would be more localized,” Pagliughi said.
A year ago, North Wildwood used military surplus vehicles to plow through streets that turned to rivers, helping residents during the storm, said Mayor Patrick Rosenello.
“Without those vehicles, I think there’s a very high likelihood there would have been a loss of life,” he said. “It was an extremely dangerous situation.”
Rosenello said the infamous March Storm of 1962 was the last storm that brought that level of flooding to the area near North Wildwood.
“We’re hoping we don’t see another one in 50 years,” he added.
For a look back at Jonas and the impact it had on South Jersey, visit PressofAC.com/weather/weathercenter/winter_weather for photo galleries, snow totals, damage assessments and more. It’s part of The Press Weather Center, your ultimate online resource for South Jersey weather.
JTomczuk@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressTomczuk