The wind from Sandy hadn't yet died down when officials and residents began making a prediction and a promise - the Jersey shore will come back.
Surely no one doubts the truth of that statement. But a large question remains unanswered: What will the shore look like when it does come back?
The answers will start coming this week, when the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to issue new flood elevation recommendations based on rising sea levels and the increasing frequency of damaging storms.
FEMA had intended to revise flood elevation guidelines next year, but is moving now to expand flood hazard zones and ensure that stricter requirements will apply as areas damaged by Sandy are rebuilt. The next move will be for towns to adopt new building codes that adhere to the new FEMA guidelines.
It makes sense for FEMA to issue its new guidelines now, before much rebuilding takes place. The new flood maps - they have not had a major update for almost 30 years - will mean broader areas where new construction must be raised to higher elevations. The tradeoff is stiffer construction costs now - and a new look for the shore - but lower costs in the future, as the new buildings stand up better to storms. Also, in towns that adopt the new flood elevation standards, property owners are eligible for discounts on their flood-insurance premiums.
The rebuilding of the shore - and the vital shore economy - has already started, of course. Towns such as Seaside Heights, Belmar, Sea Girt and Asbury Park are rushing to rebuild their damaged boardwalks so that they are ready for summer visitors and the money they bring.
Individual property owners face their own challenges.
Flood insurance premiums were already set to increase by an average of 20 percent next year, part of a law enacted in July to help stabilize the financially troubled National Flood Insurance Program. Premium increases for second homes and businesses will be even steeper.
Combined with necessary but costly new building requirements, these fees may make some residents rethink life at the shore.
Middle-class and low-income residents who have held on to small family bungalows may choose to sell their lots rather than rebuild to the new standards, fueling a demographic shift already under way, as shore towns become, more and more, playgrounds for the wealthy.
But the new guidelines are necessary. Expect to see a taller, stronger - and, unfortunately, a more expensive - Jersey shore.