Vermont resident Mark Taggarty was trying to get gambling in, North Carolina residents Keenan and Demetrice Gaskin had been celebrating their anniversary and Pennsylvania resident Peggy Becker-Dellisanti was in the area to look after her animals.
These were three of the thousands stranded in the area due to Hurricane Sandy. With hotel rooms across the mainland fully booked, stranded travelers and residents evacuated from the shore and low-lying areas were finding few lodging options while others depended on the generosity of local friends.
The Days Hotel in Egg Harbor Township had a few unbooked rooms Monday morning but by the afternoon, all of them were taken, according to Penny Brown, the the hotel’s general manager.
“We took a waiting list before but we’re pretty much done now,” she said.
The closest hotel with available rooms was in Millville, according to Brown who passed the information to stranded travelers looking for lodging options, such as Taggarty, who had spent the past two days trying to find a way back to Vermont.
Taggarty had been staying at Caesars Atlantic City, but was awaken early Sunday and told to evacuate because the tide was coming in faster and closer to the hotel than anticipated, Taggarty said. The 54-year-old went downstairs to cash out his gambling proceeds but discovered the casino had closed and would forward his money to him later. Forced to leave some possessions in his hotel room, including cell phone, Taggarty traveled to Atlantic City International Airport where he learned his private flight had been canceled.
Although he had enough money to get a hotel room Sunday night, Taggarty spent much of Monday waiting for someone, who was coming from Vermont, to pick him up. Staying in a county shelter was another option but he said he was dissuaded from going to the one in Pleasantville.
“I’m stranded,” he said.
Other travelers, such as the Gaskins, spent the weekend celebrating their third wedding anniversary in Atlantic City. They had intended on driving back to North Carolina on Monday but discovered the car dealership where they had left their vehicle was closed due to the storm.
“It was God giving me a sign,” said Demetrice Gaskin, 33, who also was celebrating a birthday over the weekend. “I don’t want to see Atlantic City ever again.”
While some stranded visitors were in the region involuntarily, others came by choice, such as Peggy Becker-Dellisanti, the owner of Arnold’s Pets & Supplies, who traveled from her home in Pennsylvania to make sure the birds and other animals at her Northfield store had a caretaker. She was planning on staying in her store for several days whether or not the power goes out.
“To me, this is Gilligan’s Island — we’re going to be marooned,” she said. “I’m here and waiting for Sandy.”
With hurricane-force winds and tidal flooding predicted, seeking shelter on the mainland made the most sense to Diane Doonan, 64, of Wildwood, who spent the day texting with friends who stayed behind.
“They’re sending pictures of the flooding down there,” she said. “I don’t want to take chances. I’m a safety girl.”
Still others contacted friends and made arrangements to stay at their house. But sometimes those arrangements came with strings. Todd Lovitz, 61,of Ventnor Heights found that out when he was sent out Monday morning to buy dishwasher fluid for the friends with whom he was staying.
“I’m the gopher,” she said. “I got no choice — they’re feeding me.”
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