Residents of coastal communities woke Monday morning to astronomically high tides that quickly flooded streets and swamped the spirits of those already weary from Winter Storm Jonas.
“This is happening all the time now,” said Tony Kutschera, 46, of Sea Isle City, who owns properties that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and again by Jonas two weeks ago. “This is getting old.”
And it’s not over. Tuesday morning’s high tide could be the worst of three consecutive cycles as a new moon and low-pressure system combine to bring major coastal flooding to barrier islands and snow to all of South Jersey. Flood warnings remain in effect through noon Tuesday and winter storm warnings through early Wednesday with as much as four to eight inches of snow possible.
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Martin Pagliughi, director of the Cape May County Office of Emergency Management, said if winds continued blowing north-northeast through the night and did not diminish in speed, “We could be looking at 8 feet to 8.5 feet” for Tuesday morning’s high tide.
To put that into perspective, the tide registered 7.8 feet Monday morning in North Wildwood, pushing “significantly less” water onto the streets than did the 9.44 feet driven by Jonas, said Mayor Patrick Rosenello, 43. Still, he said, “There is definitely a sense of exhaustion” among residents who have been battered by the frequency of storms -- including a surprise 7-foot morning tide on Jan. 10 -- and the sounding of the city’s sirens to warn them of impending flooding.
“I’ve been here 44 years,” said Tom Flud, of North Wildwood, who retrieved his garden hose a block away from his home after Monday morning’s flooding receded. “I’ve never seen the water so high when the Wildwood Canal is at its normal level.”
“Normally when we have a flooding event, we get a break in between,” West Wildwood Administrator Christopher Ridings said. “We’re barely getting cleaned up for the last storm and we have Humvees out in the street.”
Appliances, carpeting and belongings ruined by Jonas sit piled along the curbs in West Wildwood, still awaiting collection and disposal. For those struggling to recover from the devastating nor’easter that caused an estimated $67 million in damages in the state’s southernmost county, this unnamed weather event is an unwelcome piling on.
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“They can’t believe this is happening again,” Joseph Marzoni, 49, said of residents from the Wildwoods who came Monday to American Legion Post 184 in Wildwood seeking a helping hand in the wake of Jonas. The relief center at the hall, run by Island Community Connections volunteers, is closing after two weeks of giving out clothing, cleaning supplies and toiletries. “They feel they just went through this.”
For Barbara Williams, 64, of West Wildwood, the inconvenience of flooding is part of living on the coast.
“Everybody around the country has bad stuff happen,” she said. “We’re safe. That’s just what happens when you live on the water.”
Kutschera understands that, but is growing tired of what he calls “the new norm” of more frequent and severe storms.
“Obviously, it’s going to get to the point where it’s not worth it,” he said. “Then we’ll have to decide what to do with the houses.”
(Press Staff Writers Dan Skeldon and Michael Miller contributed to this report.)