More than 100 residents along Oakland Avenue and other bayfront streets in Pleasantville felt the brunt of Hurricane Sandy, which washed away their houses, blew off their roofs or stripped the sides off their homes.
“I left, and I had put all my belongings up high because I knew (the water) would come. But I didn’t think this would happen,” said 68-year-old Jackie Ernst, looking around Wednesday at what is left of her home.
A resident on Oakland Avenue, Ernst came back to a disaster zone to see her refrigerator on its side, belongings from her kitchen in the bathroom and part of the side of her home ripped off.
Mayor Jesse Tweedle invited U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez during his visit to the high school to view the severely damaged Lakes Bay area.
Menendez said he had no idea the area had been hit that badly.
The damages at the shore areas are becoming better known, but areas on the mainland near the bay were also heavily affected, Tweedle said.
Most people were told to evacuate before the storm and fortunately heeded the warning, said Fire Chief Robert Hoffman.
Though the rear of her home was open to the elements, Ernst entered through the front door to point out the dirt and leaves on the floor and all her personal belongings strewn about the room.
Code Enforcement Official Kevin Cain said that between 75 and 100 homes had water damage, and six had structural damage. Two houses were entirely washed away by the hurricane, as well as the docks in front of the city’s Yacht Clubhouse.
“Its all somewhere in the water now,” Police Chief Jose Ruiz said.
The highest recorded amount of rain was 34 inches, Cain said, but he has to complete the assessment of the entire affected region. At this point, most of the areas of Oakland and Edgewater avenues were checked, along with parts of East Bayview Drive. Many of the unchecked homes were locked and access could not be gained.
“Most of the ones (Cain) saw had sides missing or were damaged and he could get in,” Tweedle said.
The remainder of the affected Lakes Bay area will be checked today and a final report is expected by noon, Tweedle said.
Residents were allowed to check on their homes, but were advised to report back to evacuation sites or shelters.
Some of the residents have been sleeping in their cars to keep an eye on their property overnight, Ruiz said. Patrol cars will be posted on each of the affected bayfront streets overnight to deter burglars and avoid residents feeling the need to stay in the area.
“We are waiting for the dust to settle,” said Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Wilkins.
Roofs were found hundreds of feet away or on other streets. A recreational vehicle belonging to Ernst parked next to her now obliterated home, is now facing the opposite direction and was moved by the water into the middle of the street.
Another hard-hit area was the newly renovated Yacht Club and Marina District in the city.
“All of that stuff was brand-new,” Ruiz said. He added that there were six police-monitored cameras on site, which were obtained through federal funding, that were completely destroyed.
The docks were in pieces and sitting at odd angles, and portions of the new fencing were twisted out of shape.
The city spent $3.2 million to renovate the city-owned marina within the past few years, and work included adding lighting and potable water services for each boat slip, according to city records.
Ernst said she was told at about 8 a.m. Wednesday that she may not be able to rebuild her home.
Mayor Tweedle said that information is false and everything will go according to FEMA guidelines.
“My pool is gone, boat dock is gone and my deck is over there,” said another Oakland Avenue resident, Diane Desabatino, 52, pointing to the other side of the street.
“I have no idea what I am going to do,” she said.
Ruiz said he had already received reports of old air-conditioning units being stolen or scrap metal being salvaged to sell to junk yards.
“It’s unfortunate that people are trying to make money and profit off of someone else’s tragedy,” Ruiz said.
A final report of the damages will be revealed today as FEMA and city officials work together to assess the Lakes Bay area.
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