Traffic is backed up for miles on Route 72 east this morning as homeowners and residents wait to get onto Long Beach Island to remove essential items from their homes.
Police are sitting at the intersection of Mill Creek Road and Route 72 as traffic creeps through. At the next intersection, at Marsha Drive and Route 72, is the checkpoint with police before reaching the causeway onto Long Beach Island.
It has been a week since Hurricane Sandy damaged and destroyed parts of New Jersey’s coast. Long Beach Island officials are for the first time allowing homeowners and residents to return to collect belongings.
The island will be open to residents only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. today as part of a “grab and go” operation to pick up essentials at their homes. No one will be permitted to enter LBI after noon, officials said.
Vehicles were lined up as early as 8 p.m. Sunday on Route 72 to get back onto the island, even though they would not be let on for almost 12 hours.
Due to unsafe conditions, access will not be permitted for residents of the Holgate and North Beach sections of Long Beach Township. Work is still being done to clear those sections, township Mayor Joseph Mancini said.
The island has been closed to the public since evacuations for the storm last week.
To get on the island, residents will be required to show a re-entry placard issued by the municipality where their home is located, driver’s license showing an LBI address or proof of residence, such as a tax bill or deed.
Each of the island’s six municipalities met with members of the National Guard on Sunday to organize the operation, Mancini said.
Traffic will be permitted through North Beach to get to Harvey Cedars and Barnegat Light, but homes in North Beach will not be accessible, Mancini said.
Residents and homeowners are not going to be sightseeing on the island, he stressed.
“This is not going to be something that you come over here and go down to check out Holgate,” Mancini said.
Long Beach Township police Chief Michael Bradley said there is concern about a new impending storm. The National Weather Service has forecast a northeaster hitting Wednesday with wind gusts of up to 55 mph.
Cindy MacDonald, of Downington, Pa., said she plans to return to the Beach Haven Gardens section of the township to remove items from her parents’ home on 32nd Street, which is two blocks from the ocean and two blocks from the bay. She said she has no idea what to expect when she gets there.
“Our neighbor told us it was in pretty bad shape,” she said. “We have mold, and our boiler is shot, but I don’t know how badly we were hit. I parked my mom’s Mercedes at the post office” in the Brant Beach section of the township. “We were told it was one of the highest points, but I don’t even know if it’s going to start.”
MacDonald’s parents, John and Marie Yiaski, have lived at the home year-round for 15 years. She said last week that her father refused to leave when the island was evacuated, but State Police removed him from the home Tuesday.
Lyn Jackson, of Rushland, Pa., said she understands why she can’t get to her home in Holgate and wouldn’t want to go somewhere that is not safe.
She said she is trying to stay calm, telling herself what will be, will be, but she’s still anxious. Her plan was to retire at the home, but she knows that may change.
Inside the home on Pershing Avenue that she has owned since 1999 are sentimental items, such as pictures of her late father fishing. She said she has concerns about people looting on the island, but she’s willing to wait.
“I’ve read comments and blogs online about people wanting to go back to winterize their homes, and I wonder to myself if we even have homes to go back to,” she said. “Why are they even thinking like that and getting hostile with the township? There are a lot more important things to worry about right now than winterizing your home.”
Electricity has been restored to portions of the island, but gas service has been shut off.
New Jersey Natural Gas expects to complete an assessment of its system in Long Beach Island by Monday, according to a statement Sunday.
The company has done 3,000 individual service and meter assessments and expects all meters will have to be replaced.
Homeowners should contact contractors or plumbers to put their homes on waiting lists for preparing their homes for winter, to ease the scramble when access to their homes returns, the gas utility said Sunday.
The company released a list of suggestions, including turning off water mains, and draining water heaters, water softeners, filters and water treatment systems. It suggests using anti-freeze in toilets and other drain taps after they are emptied.
The gas company also suggested posting signs that warn not to use plumbing, “in case there are unexpected visitors.”
Information will be posted about reentry at www.lbieoc.org.
Staff Writer Anjalee Khemlani contributed to this report.
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