VENTNOR — Residents of this storm-pounded beachfront town were happy to return to their homes Friday afternoon after nearly a week of of staying with friends and family.
This city was the last barrier island community in Atlantic County to allow its residents to return after Hurricane Sandy. Besides suffering storm damage and power outages like other island towns, this city’s sewer system was flooded with seawater during Sandy’s storm surge, and stopped operating at full capacity. Until the system could be restored, city officials said they had to keep residents away.
But on Friday, at 3:30 p.m., the city finally reopened to residents, accepting them one by one through one of three checkpoints, and only after showing proof of residency, or proof of ownership. A line of cars grew quickly as word spread.
There also was a curfew in effect from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., but it did not apply to people who were re-entering and heading to their homes or businesses.
Some of the city’s businesses were still boarded up and not all the traffic lights were working when the city was reopened.
Daniel Correa, of Ventnor Avenue, was taking all the clothes and belongings out of his Ford Explorer SUV Friday after spending a week at his brother’s home in Absecon.
“Everything looks good, so far, said Correa, 20. “I couldn’t wait to come back home... I don’t think we had any damage.”
Last week, Correa, his parents, his girlfriend and his 18-month-old son packed up the SUV in an hour and headed Saturday night to Absecon. His brother’s home didn’t lose power, but the streets were a little flooded, Correa said.
“It was really bad, based on what I saw on the news and on TV,” said Correa, who added he was glad he left while other residents stayed.
Holly Smith, 26, of Troy Avenue, tried to tough it out, like many city residents did. Smith did not experience any flooding, but she left her home at 8 a.m. Wednesday after close to 24 hours with no electricity.
“I had kids. There was no food, and you couldn’t drink the water,” said Smith, who was watching her three cousins, ages 7, 9, and 16.
Smith went to her upstairs landlord Wednesday morning and asked him to take the whole household - three adults and three children - to her mom’s house in Pleasantville. She did not want to return until the power was back on.
“I was frustrated. I was all over Facebook. I was so mad. I want to know when the curfew will be lifted,” Smith said.
John DiFeliciantonio, 78, of Martindale Avenue, was fortunate in several ways when it came to Hurricane Sandy. He had the branches on the three trees in front of his house trimmed on a scheduled appointment Saturday before the storm hit, so he didn’t worry about he wind breaking off branches and wrecking his home.
“Luckily, I took seven days worth of medicine,” said DiFeliciantonio, who left on Sunday and returned Friday.
DiFeliciantonio left Sunday with his wife of 53 years, Catherine, and stayed with his daughter and granddaughter in Philadelphia . It was very windy and rainy in Philadelphia. Water did leak into his daughter’s home from the storm. DiFeliciantonio came home to find no water in his house.
Since DiFeliciantonio was in another state, he called city commissioner Theresa Kelly on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to find out when he could return.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. I feel for those poor people who lost everything,” said DiFeliciantonio, who wasn’t sure whether he lost power.
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