ATLANTIC CITY — Storm damage throughout the city will likely cost more than $1 million and could be as much as $2 million, Emergency Services Chief Tom Foley estimated this morning.
Several buildings were damaged in Saturday's heavy winds and pounding rain, including a crane at the Revel Entertainment construction site that snapped and twisted, causing severe damage — and likely setbacks — to the $2.6 billion project.
Foley said they are waiting for the National Weather Service to confirm whether a tornado may have hit the city, since several people in the area reported swirling winds.
The National Weather Service had said wind gusts in Atlantic City topped out at 59 mph at 12:49 p.m. Saturday, the highest wind speed for the region. Brooks estimated it was gusting to about 70 to 75 mph at times.
A small area of the city was hit especially hard, with a home collapsing at 1800 Arctic Ave., heavy roof damage to 1800 Garfield Ave. and such severe damage to 108 N. Indiana Ave. that the unoccupied home — which was leaning on the house next door — had to be demolished. That alone cost the city about $40,000, Foley said.
Overtime costs also will likely put a strain on the already problematic city budget.
Fire Chief Dennis Brooks said he hoped to have numbers Monday, but he estimated bringing in off-duty personnel would add up to about $30,000. But the move was necessary, he added.
"At one point, we had no firefighters in firehouses anywhere," Brooks said. "They were all at scenes."
Foley said additional overtime for a full shift of police and bringing in several members of the Public Works Department could likely mean a bill of about $100,000.
Meanwhile, residents of the Bella Condominium complex, Beachgate Apartment buildings and Adelphia building still could not return home. Those buildings are all within 800 feet of Revel's damaged crane, which crews worked to get down Sunday.
Three people were also displaced at Garfield Avenue, and seven people living at 110 N. Indiana — the home 108 had been leaning on — were evacuated as a precaution. Workers are investigating that area to make sure the structure is safe for the residents' return.
The call at Revel came in at 12:24 p.m. Saturday, Atlantic City Police Sgt. Monica McMenamin said. Three minutes later, Police Officer Brian Hurley was injured when debris crashed through the driver’s side window of his vehicle. He was taken to the Atlantic City Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Revel CEO Kevin DeSanctis said a portion of the boom for the 780-foot tall Crane No. 1 fell on part of the structure between the tower and the parking garage. At the scene, a thick fog that grew denser as the wind slowed made it difficult to see the point of impact.
“Debris was raining down on about a six-block area,” police Capt. Bill McKnight said from the scene of the Revel construction site Saturday afternoon. He said about four stories of glass was missing from a corner of the building.
Fearing the crane could completely collapse, Emergency Management Coordinator Tom Foley said resort emergency officials evacuated 385 people from the Bella Condominium complex, Beachgate Apartment buildings and Adelphia building near the intersection of Pacific and Connecticut avenues. All are within 800 feet of the crane.
The Showboat was briefly on lockdown, and about three blocks in each direction were closed to traffic as experts were brought in to assess the damage to Revel and deem whether it was safe, McKnight said.
Jitneys took people to the Atlantic City Convention Center, where Foley said all but 74 found places to stay. He said officials had difficulty finding emergency shelter in the city and county because the evacuation happened in the midst of an otherwise busy and crowded weekend. He said the crane was secured Saturday evening, but he said he expected people would not be able to return to their homes until at least Sunday evening, when the crane was better secured.
Jim Peterson, who was evacuated from the Beachgate Apartment complex, said he noticed the crane moving during a northeaster three and half months ago. He said he called police at the time and did not get a response.
“They evidently didn’t have a problem, because it held,” Peterson said.
Geoff Rosenberg, who had been evacuated from the Bella condominium complex, lost a car windshield and headlight to falling debris.
“Go look inside” the car, Rosenberg told a reporter. “It’s not my construction debris.”
DeSanctis said the site would be closed Monday and said the crane would be disassembled. He said, “We’ll probably spend next week understanding what happened and making sure the site’s safe before we put workers back on the site.”
At the same time, public safety officials dealt with several structural collapses.
The first call came from 2301 Atlantic Ave., where Formica’s Cleaners had a partial collapse, according to the early police report.
“The whole side of Formica’s was sheared off,” Brooks said when he arrived on the scene as he assessed damage throughout the city. “We got bricks everywhere. It’s blocked off with police tape.”
A three-story home at 108 N. Indiana Ave. began shifting at about 12:40 p.m. Brooks said the top two wooden-framed floors separated from the brick ground floor, moving about eight to 10 inches. It was leaning into 110 N. Indiana Ave. Brooks said it was set for demolition Saturday night.
Nearby large portions of Arctic and Indiana were blocked off as a result of a 12:30 p.m. call to a collapse at 1800 Arctic Ave. A man at the scene said the house was known to be vacant.
Brooks later said it was under construction, and the walls were not enforced.
Fire crews searched the rubble with body heat sensors, Brooks said, but found no sign that anyone had been inside.
Also, residents were also evacuated from a home on the 1800 block of Garfield Avenue, where part of the roof came off, letting in water and wind, Brooks said.
The net effect was overwhelming, as off-duty fire officials were called in to work. “We’re running alarms right now on three channels,” Brooks said. “(The crews) are totally overwhelmed with calls.”
That was compounded by power outages that set off alarms throughout the city.
“We’re responding all over the city,” Brooks said. “We can’t tell whether it’s a real emergency or not, but we have to respond either way.”
Weather-related problems led New Jersey Transit to announce it had suspended service on the Atlantic City and three other lines in northern New Jersey shortly after 4:30 p.m. It was unclear late Saturday night when service would resume.
Traffic lights were out across the region, including in front of the Showboat and on Oriental Avenue, which at about 1:30 p.m. was a mix of debris and water buffeted by a winds blowing off the ocean and Absecon Inlet. A tree was also down on Pacific Avenue between New Jersey and Connecticut avenues.
The front of a building on the first block of South Massachusetts Avenue, between Atlantic and Pacific avenues, had a partial collapse, McKnight said.
Inlet resident Hakeem Shaheed said the house had been, until recently, the home of an elderly woman in her late 80s.
“It’s unbelievable,” Shaheed said. “I’m looking out the door — I have family that lives right across the lot on Metropolitan Avenue — and this lady’s roof just crashed to the ground.”
The woman had recently moved to senior citizens’ housing on Virginia Avenue, he said, and she was the only resident of the building.
“Thank God she wasn’t on her porch or coming out of her door,” Shaheed said. “She’s a very sweet woman, and her house stands alone.”
He said trucks to and from the Revel site come up and down Massachusetts to transport materials — which he believes damaged the building’s structural integrity.
“For the last two years, these big, megaton trucks have been (coming),” he said. “You can feel it when they ride down the street. I don’t even think it’s built to sustain that.”
McKnight also said fire crews were working to remove a large sign from the front of a church on Atlantic Avenue between Brighton and Morris avenues to keep the large metal sign from falling and causing more problems.
Debris was also blowing off the top of the Borgata, according to reports from people there.
Staff writers Steven Lemongello and Ben Leach contributed to this report.
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