VINELAND – With the wind howling and rain pouring Wednesday night, 19-year-old Kaytlin Perez said she had a bad feeling about staying in the bedroom in the rear of the mobile home she shares with her mother.
So Perez grabbed her little dog, Lewie, and left for the presumed safety of the living room.
She said she raced about five feet down the hallway when a tree – damaged from the June 30 storm – came crashing through the top of the mobile home. The bathroom and parts of her bedroom were destroyed, she said.
“I didn’t even look back,” Perez said.
The Perez residence on Markson Drive was one of what Cumberland County officials said were two mobile homes in the Vineland Hills Mobile Home Park to suffer significant damage when a sudden storm swept through the city. The park had suffered extensive damage – with eight mobile homes destroyed – during the June storm. Some Vineland Hills residents were without power for two weeks.
Mayor Robert Romano said the wind, rain and hail that descended on his city Wednesday night came with little warning, like the June storm. Wednesday’s storm lasted only about 40 minutes, which was enough, he said, to damage trees already damaged by the previous storm, leave some streets underwater and some Vineland Municipal Electric Utility customers without power for a short while.
“It was like a hurricane,” Romano said. “We were the only ones to get hit. It was just unbelievable.”
County spokesman Troy Ferus said there were no storm-related injures. Power is now restored to all county residents, he said.
Local officials said the city suffered nothing like the estimated $100 million in damage from the June storm. No damage total was immediately available from the city.
For residents of Vineland Hills in the 1300 block of North East Boulevard, the storm just brought more damage.
Perez and her mother, Leigh, surveyed their home of two years with disbelief Thursday morning.
Leigh Perez said part of the tree snapped and crushed a fence during the June 30 storm. Most of the tree’s massive root system was unearthed during that storm, causing the remainder of the more than 50-foot-tall tree to droop closer to her roof in the past two weeks, she said.
Leigh and Kaytlin Perez both believe that some recent heavy rains weakened the earth’s grip on the remaining root system. The wind and rain that struck Wednesday night was enough to finally cause the tree to crash onto their home, they said.
Leigh Perez said she and other Vineland Hills residents have complained to park management about damaged trees since the June storm. Some damaged trees were removed, she said, but there are still plenty of others marked for removal that are still in place.
“They just don’t seem to care,” said Leigh Perez, a 43-year-old hair stylist.
Park management did not respond to a request from The Press of Atlantic City for comment.
Vineland Hills residents complained about their plight on Thursday to Romano, who said there is little the city can do because the facility is private property. He said many Vineland Hills residents want the city to take control of the park, but that is not likely to happen.
“We can’t get into that,” he said of taking control of the park.
City Licenses and Inspections Department Director Robert Aussenberg said municipal inspectors will go to Vineland Hills to check for possible violations of local laws.
The city can cite a property owner if a tree is damaged to the point where it represents a hazard, he said. One problem is that the city’s inspection staff fell well behind in its work because of problems caused by the June 30 storm, he said.
As for Kaytlin and Leigh Perez, they will have to find someplace else to stay.
“We have no other choice,” Leigh Perez said.
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