Flooding in Atlantic City Monday was at a record high and that was even before Hurricane Sandy had struck, but that still wasn’t enough for to get some residents to leave.
Despite a mandatory evacuation and casino shutdown, some people opted to stay, while a few businesses opened as usual.
Those who did cited the last evacuation order for Tropical Storm Irene-and the less than dire outcome--as their reason for staying.
“I have enough food, water, batteries - an extra car battery,” said Mohsin Shah, 24, a Lower Chelsea resident said.
Shah said as he eyed the knee-deep water flooding Dover Avenue. “But it’s going to be the same thing as last time. Nothing is going to happen.”
City and state officials have repeatedly warned that such complacency could prove deadly.
“I can’t overemphasize how dangerous this storm is,” city Office of Emergency Management Director Tom Foley said. “We know it will be unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.”
Before it fully arrived, the storm made history: floods were measured 9.75 feet above the mean low-water mark early Monday morning, Foley said.
In practical terms, that meant nearly all of Gardner’s Basin and the South Inlet was impassable for most of Monday aside from Atlantic Avenue and the Boardwalk, but increasingly strong winds ultimately precluded that as well.
Floodwaters also rose to at least two feet in most areas within two blocks of the bay or a block from the beach Monday morning. That started to subside just before noon, but quickly started building again during the early afternoon as rainfall strengthened to a blinding intensity.
At that point, city officials suspended emergency medical services because ambulances could not navigate the flood. Firefighters started responding to calls instead, in addition to battling a few minor fires that broke out Monday. With two of 10 trucks too water-logged to keep running, the fire department started using inflatable watercraft and front-end loaders to get through the flood to respond to some of the nearly 400 calls for service that had come in by Monday afternoon. High-water vehicles from the state were being sent to the city as well, Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said.
During the storm’s early stages, property damage and power outages were minimal in the city.
Lights remained on in homes throughout the resort.
Casinos kept their exteriors lit as usual, and Bally’s Casino Resort continued blasting pop music onto the Boardwalk more than 24 hours after operators cleared out gamblers and hotel guests to comply with a state order to shut down. Local gaming companies keep between 15 and 20 people on each property to provide security and maintenance support on hand.
It remains likely, however, that Sandy will knock out electricity for many people, possibly for days, Foley said.
Foley expects to allow people back into the city no sooner than Thursday – at least one day later than initially planned.
“We can only urge those very few who haven’t evacuated to hunker down and do the best you can,” he said.
As Foley spoke, Langford was overseeing the evacuation of residents from the city’s shelters to those offshore in an effort to put maximum distance between residents and the storm’s unprecedentedly dangerous conditions.
Of more than 500 residents kept overnight Sunday in shelters, about 135 were left to be transported to the shelter at Pleasantville High School by Monday afternoon. Once they’re gone, the city will have bussed out more than 2,200 residents, Foley said.
More than 1,800 residents, however, remained in high-rise apartment buildings throughout the resort, Foley said.
And they were not the only ones riding out the storm.
Casinos and most other businesses closed, including The Walk Outlets. The shopping center did not open on Sunday. By that time, most stores had taped their windows; businesses along the Boardwalk and Atlantic and Pacific avenues seemed to prefer plywood and sandbags.
Tony’s Baltimore Grill at Iowa and Atlantic avenues had written a message on its protective window cover: Open.
“Our family and Ducktown (Tavern) spoke with emergency services and the police, … (after) the last hurricane, we made an agreement to stay open for them and feed them in the event of an emergency,” co-owner Debbie Tarsitano said.
Tarsitano’s Atlantic Avenue location wasn’t flooding, but the roof – a flat design, she said – was leaking Monday afternoon. Water also from the ceiling into dripped into four recycling bins in the Public Safety Building’s fourth floor hallway.
But few people experienced flooding that crept inside by Monday afternoon.
Property damage seen and reported throughout the resort also was minimal Monday. Some smaller, weaker trees were uprooted or cracked in winds that reached 40 miles per hour by Monday afternoon – about half the strength of what’s expected through today.