As South Jersey awakes to the third day after the coastal storm that was Hurricane Sandy made landfall just south of Atlantic City, the question that the thousands of evacuees in Atlantic County and parts of Cape May County are asking is when they can go home.
The answer to that? Still not sure.
Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson has asked Gov. Chris Christie to lift the emergency and travel ban for Brigantine, Margate and Longport, although a decision has not yet been made, officials said.
Christie is expected to be holding a press conference at 4 p.m. in Moonachie, Bergen County where he may address the issue. County officials said due to public safety and health concerns, they are recommending the travel ban continue in Atlantic City and Ventnor.
"We are following the governor's directive. We remain under a state of emergency," Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said. "As soon as the ban is rescinded and access permitted into the barrier islands we will inform the public."
Other barrier islands in Cape May County allowed residents back on Wednesday, but the county said in a news release that, officially, it was following the governor's directive and had not officially rescinded any evacuation orders.
The county said in a news release that it had requested Tuesday permission to allow Avalon, Stone Harbor and the Wildwoods to reopen, but the governor denied the request.
However, several towns, including Ocean City and Stone Harbor, defied that order and opened the islands to residents.
Egg Harbor Township reopened West Atlantic City Wednesday afternoon. Mayor James J. "Sonny" McCullough said earlier this week that the damage in some communities was "devastating."
West Atlantic City, which had a dune and gabion system built to protect the residential neighborhood along Bay Drive was over-topped during the first high tide Monday and the water rose nearly two more feet during the height of the storm Monday night. Along the Black Horse Pike, debris lines in fences along the Black Horse Pike showed some areas had five feet of water covering them at times.
Stafford Township will allow a limited re-entry into the Beach Haven West neighborhood this afternoon, from noon to 4 p.m. Residents must show proof of residency.
Long Beach Island access will take much longer, with authorities there warning it will be many days before residents will be allowed to return.
Electricity is returning to many mainland residents and some barrier island structures, but Atlantic City Electric says it still has a lot of work to do.
As of 8 a.m. Thursday, more than 74,000 customers, the majority of which are on the barrier islands. The utility says it expects electricity to be restored to at least 90 percent of the mainland customers by Sunday, but that it needs to finish the damage assessment on the barrier islands before an estimated restoration time can be given there.
Brigantine Police said in a news release that power is returning to the island and that electricity has been restored to the majority of the south end, with the north end and golf course sections gradually having power restored.
Police ask that residents do not call 911 or police for updates regarding returning to the island or when power will be restored.