One week after Hurricane Sandy hit, Absecon Island's Downbeach communities are still struggling to remove sand from the streets as well as piles of storm-ravaged furniture and household items being placed on the curb by residents.
The work is so massive officials didn’t want to place a timetable on when it would be completed. There was a fear the work would not be done before a potential northeaster storm is forecasted to move through the area Wednesady and possibly bring high wind gusts
“For the most part, everything is water logged and dense,” Ventnor Mayor Mike Bagnell said of the household debris. “Some of the stuff may get airborne.”
The city contracted to bring in six large trash containers to begin picking up the items — which include flood-damaged rugs, furniture and mattresses — today. The pick-up will begin in low-lying neighborhoods, although with residents appearing to bring more storm-damaged items to the curb, Bagnell said he wasn’t sure when the work would be completed.
In Margate and Longport, sand appeared to pose more of a challenge.
Officials estimated workers removed 3 million cubic feet of sand that the storm swept onto the streets from the Margate beach, Mayor Michael Becker said. The city also rented two dozen extra trash containers and situated them in different neighborhoods on Saturday.
“On Sunday alone, we emptied 60 Dumpsters,” he said. “We still have a lot more.”
Flooding also caused damage to the first floor of City Hall, requiring officials to relocate to the Union Avenue School until further notice. While most offices were closed for Election Day, they will reopen for regular weekday business hours Wednesday, officials said.
Businesses were among those hardest hit, with many remaining closed Tuesday due to water damage, Becker said. CVS, which remained closed, was planning to open a mobile store soon, he said.
The storm swept so much sand onto the streets that it exposed part of an old boardwalk by Quincy Avenue destroyed by a 1944 storm and buried for all of those years, according to Becker, who has lived in town for about 40 years.
But Frank Tiemann, president of the Margate Historical Society, said based on the photos that he saw of the piling, the pieces weren’t part of the historic boardwalk but rather an old bulkhead and wall that predated the 1944 storm. The boardwalk piling would have been situated much father out in the water, Tiemann, 76, said.
“When I was a little kid, we used to walk on top of it,” he said of the bulkhead.
John Gottlieb, 70, a resident of Quincy Avenue, said the storm surge was so strong that at high tide, the street looked like a river ran through it. Just to remove the sand and muck from the street required three front loaders working for days, he said, estimating that 100,000 tons of sand were removed from that street alone.
“There were three of them working from dawn to dusk for three days,” Gottlieb said.
In addition to infrastructure, Margate officials were concerned about residents, canvassing the entire city starting Tuesday, City Clerk Tom Hiltner said.
“We’ve broken the city into five quadrants, and building inspectors and members of the police department are knocking on every door to make sure that no one is shut in there alone and that everyone has heat,” he said. “Our concern is that we do have some people who live alone, and they may not have had someone checking on them.”
In Longport, some neighborhoods, such as by 25th Avenue, saw 4 feet of sand on some side streets, residents reported. Crews were still at work Tuesday to clear the remaining sand piles.
“This is 1,000 times better than it was,” said John Duffey, a 61-year-old Longport resident who was helping to clear out his sister’s home nearby. “The sand pile was as high as that yield-to-pedestrian sign.”
Point Drive, which is at the tip of the Longport peninsula, was the hardest hit area in the borough, with nearly all of the shore-facing residences experiencing extensive damage, officials and residents said.
Retired dentist Robert Bassman, 78, who lives on the street but away from the water, said several years ago when his neighbor across the street was building a new house, the neighbor apologized for blocking Bassman’s ocean views. It turned out the new house took the brunt of Sandy’s fury.
After seeing the damage caused by Sandy, Bassman said he wasn’t concerned about the storm being forecasted for today.
“It’s just going to be a nor’easter,” he said.
Staff Writer Steve Lemongello contributed to this report.
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