LOWER TOWNSHIP — Eileen Crossman was sitting in her home when the worst storm she ever saw sent a large tree crashing through the middle of her house.

Crossman, a 17-year resident, lost most of what she had during Tuesday’s storm, which brought 80-mph straight-line winds that caused widespread damage late Tuesday afternoon.

“I heard a giant crash and I saw the tree come through and cut my house in half,” Crossman said. “I lost all my clothes and many belongings.”

More than a half dozen Lower Township homes are total losses, and Middle Township sent out a request for all residents to report any storm damage to the township, officials said Thursday as cleanup continued.

Middle and Lower reported no damage to township infrastructure and no injuries or deaths as a result of the powerful storms. But the damage assessment to private homes and businesses is continuing.

Cape May County Emergency Management Director Martin Pagliughi said the New Jersey State Police Recovery Bureau conducted damage surveys in Middle and Lower township on Thursday to determine if Cape May County met a minimum threshold to begin the process of applying for state or federal disaster aid.

The survey so far has found 49 residences with at least some damage, but that doesn’t meet the criteria for aid, he said.

Pagliughi said that the minimum threshold for aid is about 250 homes and businesses with major damage.

While Pagliughi believes the team surveyed most of the damage Thursday, he said they will return to likely conclude the survey today.

Richard Harron, emergency management coordinator for Lower Township, said at least seven homes in the township were near total losses due to fallen trees, and some may have to be torn down. Five of those homes were in Villas, one was in Erma, and one in Town Bank, he said.

Reported losses in Cape May County from Jonas, a powerful nor’easter in January, totaled $66.8 million, Pagliughi said.

But he noted that Jonas was a much larger storm that impacted the entire county, and that the bulk of the damage was beach loss.

Destructive winds of at least 80 mph swept across lower Cape May County between 3:40 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, causing a peninsula-wide swath of damage from Green Creek and Villas on Delaware Bay to the Wildwoods on the Atlantic Ocean.

The worst damage was concentrated in southern Middle Township and all of Lower Township, as well as parts of the Wildwoods.

“Cleanup from this storm is a monumental task, with so many uprooted trees and broken branches needed to be removed,” Middle Township Public Works Superintendent Rob Flynn said.

Public works crews from Wildwood Crest, Upper Township and Ocean City helped Flynn’s crews, which have been working hard to clear the debris.

Pagliughi said the Cape May County Municipal Utilities Authority waived the normal $35-per-ton tipping fee to help municipalities clear debris.

Both Flynn and Harron said all roads in their townships are now open. However, they expect debris removal to continue through at least early next week.

Meanwhile, residents and business owners continued their cleanup efforts.

Barbara Tomalino, president of banner plane company Paramount Air Service in the Green Creek section of Middle Township, needs a new roof for what she called a now “open air hangar” along Route 47. Hurricane-force wind gusts from Tuesday’s storms ripped the roof off of a 60-by-120-foot hangar.

After a peak electricity outage of 39,000 immediately following Tuesday’s storms, all customers were expected to have power restored by Thursday afternoon, Atlantic City Electric spokesman Frank Tedesco said.

Meanwhile, at Crossman’s damaged home, crews worked to get the tree out of her Evergreen Avenue home. They cut it and used a crane.

A few blocks over on Pine Tree Drive, another house was almost completely crushed by a large tree from a neighbor’s house.

Janet Pitts, who lives two doors down from the damaged house, said she heard popping and cracking before the tree came down.

Contact: 609-272-7247

Contact: 609-272-7260

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