Devastation Across Jersey Mindboggling

Daylight Reveals A Forever Changed Jersey Shore

A much anticipated first light for Jersey residents brought visions of disbelief and heartbreak.  From the tidal flooding in Hoboken to levee breach and raging Hackensack river in Bergen County to the downed trees, dismantled traffic lights, and mangled street signs in Middlesex County to the heavy damage to many towns along the Jersey Shore, there is no way to put into words how devastating Hurricane Sandy was to the Garden State.  A weary Governor Chris Christie was emotional when speaking about the Jersey Shore, especially Belmar, Seaside Heights, and Island Beach State Park, places where he has spent summers during his childhood and the past several years.

I’ve been to Island Beach State Park twice since April.  Those two visits were my first ever to that beach.  A friend had brought it up to me when I was considering places to travel to during my off-season from covering high school football and basketball.  I enjoyed both of my trips there, and have pictures from both visits that you can see in the GWC Photo Gallery.  I was particularly impressed by the size, shape, and quality of the dunes there.  They had a majestic quality to them, and it comes out in the pictures I took of them.  In June, I traveled the whole length of that beach to Barngeat Inlet, and viewed Barnegat Light.  To hear that the beach there was significantly damaged was sad to say the least.

Over the past 10 years, I’ve made many trips to the Jersey Shore.  Originally, I traveled mostly to Sandy Hook and nearby Sea Bright.  Six years ago, I began taking trips to Waterfront Park in South Amboy and the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge.  However, over the past year I’ve visited many coastal communities from Avon By The Sea, Belmar, Keyport, Keansburg, Manasquan, Port Monmouth, Red Bank, Sea Girt, Spring Lake, and Union Beach.  I had made plans to make more visits in the future.  While I’m disappointed that I will not be able to get down there in the near future, I intend to head down there once things return to normal, and the iconic features that make those locales so special are rebuilt better than before.

I traveled around South Plainfield by foot and by car, and was amazed by the damage here even though it pales in comparison to places such as Hoboken, Moonachie, Sayreville, and the Jersey Shore.  Traffic lights ripped off their supports, and thrown to the street like toys.  I noticed several of them down and disfigured just around the Stelton and Hadley Road areas alone.  Leaves, tree limbs, and large branches scattered about like rubbish.   A number of large trees were uprooted with some lying in the street.  Other trees such as the ones in the front of the hotel I’m staying at were bent over by the force of the high winds on Monday night.  Roads were cut off, or closed to traffic. Street signs were bent over, mangled, or even uprooted while store signs were ripped apart.  Some of the store signs were thrown many yards from where they originated.  

I’ve taken pictures of much of the damage, and plan to take more over the next couple days.  Like many of the recent disasters that the Garden State has endured, the devastation was almost surreal. After 9/11 I felt like my life and the way we live was altered forever.  Following Hurricane Irene a year ago, I understood how these disasters are more than just numbers, pictures, and video on television, and what it was like to have to endure what others have been enduring from disasters across this country.  This time, I find myself not really surprised by what happened, but in awe.  The damage is almost surreal.  Even though New Jersey lies in a position along the East Coast of the United States that leaves it relatively immune from tropical storms and hurricanes, Irene and Sandy are reminders that even the Garden State is like any other coastal state in the U.S., and vulnerable to tropical cyclones.

Back in 2001, I had put together a special series of reports on the state of Tri-State Preparedness for a tropical storm or hurricane.  Then, I had mentioned how insurance companies had studied the possibility of a major hurricane making landfall along the Jersey Shore and producing a devastating surge to many of Jersey’s coastal communities as well as New York City, and possibly causing tens of billions in damage.  Eleven years later, I’m sad to see that this scenario has become reality.