One person is dead in Little Egg Harbor Township as a result of the storm and sections of the township and neighboring Tuckerton have been destroyed.
Little Egg Harbor Township police Chief Richard Buzby confirmed that there was one storm-related death so far, and it happened off Radio Road in the Mystic Islands section of the township.
Meanwhile, emergency management crews continued the search for people inside homes, Buzby said. Fifty members from the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and Sheriff’s Department have been sent to the township to assist in door-to-door search and recovery operations.
“I don’t know what else we’re going to find in those houses,” Buzby said.
The identification of the victim was not being released pending notification of next of kin, he said. Further details were not available.
The hardest-hit area in Tuckerton was the Tuckerton Beach section, where seven homes were swept away by a storm surge created by Hurricane Sandy, borough police Chief Michael Caputo said.
“It looks like the apocalypse down there. We’re missing homes off foundations, and there are homes in the lagoon,” he said.
In Little Egg Harbor Township on Wednesday afternoon, Richard and Jenny Webb were trying to clean up their second home of 15 years on South Bergee Drive, which was ravaged by the storm.
Richard Webb was armed with a camera, snapping shots of the inside and outside of the home. Debris and vegetation were piled inside what once looked like a quaint seashore living room, now all wet. Luckily, the couple has flood insurance, he said.
“That was our dining room,” he said as he pointed and shook his head.
“There was at least four feet of water inside the house. My boat is three houses down the street leaning against my neighbor’s house,” he said.
The Webbs, of Levittown, Pa., found their back porch in their front yard and what was their floating dock in their back yard. Jenny Webb pointed down the street to where the couple’s backyard shed was thrown.
“During the summer, we sit out here and watch the boats go by. It’s just beautiful here. How could someone not love it,” Jenny Webb said as she looked out over the bay.
“We love it here. This is our second home. We’re going to rebuild,” Richard Webb said.
Little Egg Harbor Township Committeeman Raymond Gormley said the hardest-hit areas in the township were North and South Bergee Drive, Iowa Court, North and South Spinnaker Drive and Ohio Drive.
Residents in Little Egg Harbor Township and Tuckerton were evacuated to Pinelands Regional Middle School, and at one point there were about 700 people there, Gormley said.
Power was still out in portions of the township and officials were concerned that fires could start as it comes back on, Gormley said.
About 350 people were evacuated from Tuckerton, said Emergency Management Coordinator Harold E. Spedding.
The Tuckerton Beach section of the borough was estimated to have 32 homes destroyed, 260 heavily damaged homes and 258 homes with minor damage. Officials projected millions of dollars in damage. South Green Street was closed to public access and boats had washed into the road.
The storm’s surge caused heavy damage along the waterfront community, downing lines and damaging natural gas, water and sewer lines.
Caputo said the smell of natural gas was so thick you could taste it.
Caputo said the Police Department was running on 12-hour shifts and officers came in to relieve others to keep the force rested. Officers were transporting some residents to their homes for medication and to pick up pets in their homes in Tuckerton Beach.
“We had some residents who stayed and then they called for help when they realized it was getting bad,” Caputo said.
Couple Kim and Evette Heinle were among the residents who stayed and rode out the storm. Wednesday morning, the couple was waiting on Green Street for a truck to deliver their seven dogs and six birds from their home. Evette Heinle said she is a dog fosterer and did not evacuate because she did not want to leave the animals behind.
“Never again will we stay through a storm. We didn’t think it would be this bad, but we will never ride it out again. We’ve been through storms and flooding, but nothing like this,” said Evette Heinle, 50, who was born one week after the infamous 1962 storm.
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