Residents of Cape May County coastal communities woke up Monday to astronomically high tides that quickly flooded streets and swamped the spirits of barrier island residents already beaten from Winter Storm Jonas.
“This is happening all the time now,” said Tony Kutschera, 46, of Sea Isle City. “This is getting old.”
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Kutschera, who owns two properties in the 100 block of 45th Street, said storm fatigue is starting to set in. Both of his properties were damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and one of the two was damaged two weeks ago by Jonas. Monday morning’s high tide didn’t bring any water into the two structures but was deep enough that he would have lost his vehicles if he hadn’t moved them in time, he said.
“Enough is enough,” Kutschera said. “There was a culmination after Sandy and when the city closed the public school that we thought, ‘Let’s just sell.’ But the fact of the matter is, we love where we live.”
Now, after Jonas and the two surprise high tides that book-ended the devastating Jan. 23-24 nor’easter that caused an estimated $67 million in damage in the county, the price of living at the shore may be getting too steep.
“Obviously, it’s going to get to the point where it’s not worth it,” Kutschera said. “Then we’ll have to decide what to do with the houses.”
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“It seems like every two weeks it floods,” said Doug Bergen, public information officer for Ocean City, noting the Jan. 10 new moon and the Jan. 23-24 full moon were accompanied by weather systems that drive water onto the barrier islands. “It’s bad luck that these storms have come on these moons.”
The new moon of Jan. 10 caused a high tide reading of 7.06 feet in Ocean City, Bergen said. The full-moon high tide of Jonas was 8.04 feet and Monday morning’s new moon tide, propelled by a low-pressure system, measured 7.42 feet. The lowest of Jonas’s three tides was comparable to Monday morning’s tide, the city said.
It has the potential to be even worse Tuesday morning, said Martin Pagliughi, director of the county Office of Emergency Management.
“If the wind continues north-northeast at the present speed through the night, we could be looking at 8 feet to 8.5 feet” for Tuesday morning's high tide, he said. “It also depends on the departure of the tides in the back bays” after Monday night’s tide cycle.
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In North Wildwood, the tide registered 7.8 feet Monday morning, 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 and the sounding of the city’s sirens to warn them of impending flooding.
“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 aid for damages they incurred from Jonas.
The relief center, run by volunteers with Island Community Connections, is closing after two weeks of handing out clothing, cleaning supplies and toiletries. “They feel they just went through this,” Marzoni said.