OCEAN CITY— John Sekel, a visitor to the Jersey Shore for 20 years, wanted a beachfront home, but he would have preferred the beach stay outside.
On Thursday, he found the beach had made its way inside the two-story home with help from Hurricane Sandy, leaving behind about two feet of sand.
“There’s somebody’s boot,” he said as he pointed to a blue boot — not one of his — that had been swept into the house during the storm.
Sekel said he and his family purchased the house a year ago this week.
“The floors will all have to be redone,” he said as he walked through the kitchen and living area.
Rugs were covered in sand and some furniture was moved by the storm, but a television on the wall appeared to still be intact.
“This is actually better than I expected,” he said, noting there didn’t appear to be any structural damage.
Property owners across Cape May County have been making their way back to the shore this week trying to assess the damage Hurricane Sandy left behind.
Gov. Chris Christie rescinded the mandatory evacuation order for Cape May County’s barrier islands Thursday afternoon.
Sekel is among those with flood insurance who has already filed a claim with the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
“We used to have a 12-foot dune out there,” he said, pointing to the open beachfront that now faces his Central Avenue home.
Down the street Charlie Caucci, a year-round resident and owner for 18 years, said he was shocked at the toll the storm had taken.
Several feet of sand surround his home and much of it had washed through the house.
“I had a 250-pound urn travel down the block,” he said, pointing to the decorative planter that had moved from its original resting place.
Outside heating units were covered in sand, and inside, sand covered the floors, and drywall was marked where the sand and water had stopped. Outside, the decks were damaged, landscaping was destroyed and sand still covered the driveway.
He estimated repairs would cost anywhere from $100,000 to $200,000.
“It’s major,” Caucci said. “It’s a massive cleanup. It’s going to take us months and months.”
But the storm, he said, and the threat of others down the road would not stop him from living in Ocean City.
“But still today I wouldn’t trade beach living,” he said.
Like the city’s homeowners, business owners were also coping with what to do next.
Full Steam Ahead, a Myrtle Beach, S.C., company, came to town at the request of Bollanger Insurance to help with the cleanup.
Company representative Mike Millen likened the destruction to Hurricane Hugo.
“We’re a coastal town, so we’re familiar with hurricanes,” he said.
At Johnson’s Bedding and Appliance on Asbury Avenue, Millen’s crew was pulling out carpet and moving furniture so owner Don Johnson could start drying the store.
“From a flood standpoint, it’s one of the worst I’ve seen,” Millen said of the damage to Ocean City. “I’ve never seen a bay come across like this.”
Millen said the company rips out carpeting and usually uses large fans and dehumidifiers to dry spaces. Johnson’s, he said, would take about three days to dry.
The company also tears out baseboards and drywall as needed to assess any unseen damage. Infrared cameras detect moisture within the walls.
Johnson, who was 9 years old during the famous march 1962 storm in South Jersey, said the company had lost some inventory, but was still operating Thursday.
“We’re working. We’re delivering appliances,” he said.
Down the street at 10th and Asbury Avenue, Angelo Cuculino, owner of Happy Days Restaurant, said he had no flood insurance and was uncertain whether the restaurant would be restored.
He spent Thursday saving what he could.
“We literally had fish in the dining room. I had minnows in the dining room,” Cuculino said.
Cuculino said he lost all his restaurant equipment to the flood waters as well as carpets and cabinets.
He described the hurricane’s effect with one word, “devastation.”
“We’re in salvage mode. Salvage what we can,” he said.
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