Long Beach Island homeowners received good news Friday when Gov. Chris Christie said they could return Saturday and New Jersey Natural Gas announced that most service should be restored by Dec. 1.
On Tuesday, a group of island mayors sent Christie a request asking him to lift the evacuation order imposed after Hurricane Sandy. The next day, Christie spoke at the High Point Volunteer Fire Company in Harvey Cedars and said he would work with officials to determine a reentry plan.
Long Beach Township Mayor Joseph Mancini said Christie agreed to lift the order Thursday evening, following a telephone conference call. Christie’s office confirmed that information Friday.
A news release from Christie’s office said lifting the order will “allow residents controlled access to assess damage, retrieve belongings and permitting repopulation of the island for residents whose homes are safe and habitable.”
The controlled access to Long Beach Island’s six municipalities will be under the direction of local officials with assistance from the New Jersey National Guard. Access will begin at 6 a.m. Saturday for all areas except the Holgate section of Long Beach Township, where infrastructure and road damage are still too dangerous, the release states.
“This has been an unimaginable ordeal for many of our residents, but particularly for those on the barrier islands that remained under mandatory evacuation,” Christie said.
On Sunday, New Jersey Natural Gas will begin a service restoration plan that will be done in three phases. With the exception of Holgate, where infrastructure work is ongoing, the utility expects to complete the first and second phases by Dec. 1, a news release states.
If a customer’s home or business has electricity, is habitable and is occupied, they may have their own qualified technician check to make sure their natural gas system and equipment are safe to use and turn on, the company said.
Customers in sections of the island where the first two phases of work are completed before Dec. 1 will be able to restore natural gas service to their home.
New Jersey Natural Gas will post a list of the streets where work is being done on www.njng.com, as well as an estimated date for technicians to complete their work, the release states.
Harvey Cedars police Chief Thomas Preiser said the Army Corps of Engineers is trying to bring in dredging equipment to assist with storm recovery in Surf City and Harvey Cedars
Long Beach Township police Chief Michael Bradley said he expects re-entry this morning to be smooth and orderly because homeowners were previously able to return to the island this week to collect belongings.
“After seeing this morning’s repopulation, the reentry is getting smoother and smoother. To make it go even smoother, we’re asking that residents have their reentry placards visible,” Bradley said.
Residents will need their reentry placard or proof of residency, such as a tax bill, and contractors will need a contractor placard, Preiser said.
Although there was good news for the majority of island residents Friday, homeowners who returned to Holgate on Friday for the first time since Sandy had only one chance to see their properties until further notice.
Philip Posar’s oceanfront home, which was undermined by the water that rushed through the breakaways and under the piling, has been his year-round residence since 1992. He evacuated to his daughter Penny Readen’s home in Freehold, Monmouth County, last week. At this point, he has no idea when he will be able to return.
His home was pasted with an orange sticker Friday, and he was told he could not go inside. He stood across the street Friday afternoon in his neighbor’s yard that is now a mountain of sand, the small home pushed off its foundation by the water during the storm.
“This is the worst storm I’ve ever seen in my 32 years on LBI. When I heard how bad it was going to be, I prayed the breakaways would work. This is our Katrina,” Posar said.
For John and Janet Totilo, of Marlton, Burlington County, it is unclear if they will ever be back in their trailer that once sat in the LBI Trailer Park on Long Beach Boulevard.
Trailers inside the park were toppled like rows of dominoes, pushed by the strength of the water that breached the dunes and rushed across the boulevard.
Their trailer, just steps from the beach entrance on the other side of the boulevard, was tossed up the street and into a neighbor’s yard full of sand. Inside the trailer, pictures still hung on the walls, and china and wine glasses inside cabinets were still lined up and unbroken, the Totilos said.
The couple stood on the corner of Roosevelt Avenue looking at the trailer that has been their summer escape for the past 18 years.
“We saw the aerial pictures on the news of it sitting here, and I swore it was ours,” Janet Totilo said.
John Totilo said they were at the trailer the Friday before the storm and hoped it wouldn’t be as bad as it turned out to be.
“We’re not sure if we’ll be back or at this point how the owner is going to handle the property,” John Totilo said.
An islandwide curfew that will be strictly enforced will be in effect from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m., officials said
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