Christie: Shore ‘battered,’ rescues under way in A.C.

The National Guard is in Atlantic City to help with search and resue efforts. (Aubrey Whelan / Staff)
The National Guard is in Atlantic City to help with search and resue efforts. (Aubrey Whelan / Staff)
Posted: October 31, 2012

New Jersey Gov. Christie said this morning that the Jersey shore was "battered" by Sandy and that search and rescue teams have been sent to Atlantic City to look for stranded residents.

"The devastation on the Jersey Shore is some of the worst we've ever seen" he said on his Twitter account this morning.

"I think the loses are going to be incalculable," he said earlier on NBC's "Today Show."

Mayor Nutter at the same time said Philadelphia had escaped the storm's full wrath. The Delaware River hit a record high overnight, said Mark McDonald, Nutter's spokesman, but there were no reports of damage to city properties along the Delaware River. All bridges are open.

New Jersey bore the direct hit when Sandy raged ashore about 8 p.m. last night in concert with high tide.

Christie said there are active search and rescue missions in the hardest hit areas, especially Atlantic City, much of which was underwater, and Moonachie, Bergen County, flooded when a levee broke Monday night.

Christie said there are four rescue boats now in Atlantic City and 21 New Jersey State Troopers, as well as federal search and rescue teams.

The governor was on the phone at midnight with President Obama and added the federal government's, "response has been great."

Obama, he said,"has been outstanding about this."

"We have a battered, battered New Jersey shore," Christie said.

He also commented on his blasting Monday of Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford, who opened city shelters, despite Christie's state of emergency ordering evacuations of the state's barrier islands.

"The fact of the matter is, I feel badly for the folks in Atlantic City who listened to him and sheltered there . . . unfortunately, they got a mixed message."

Christie said he believes New Jersey will qualify for major federal assistance, but, added: "If I have to make budget cuts to do this, we'll do it."

"New Jersey is a tough place," Christie said. "We'll recover from this."

The downbeach communities of Ventnor, Margate and Longport were hammered with flooding and heavy winds into early Tuesday morning that followed Sandy's calm landfall with hours of pummeling.

Overall, it appeared things could have been much worse.

Beach blocks looked like rivers with fast moving currents of rain water that had backed up in the streets during the storm. But Tuesday morning revealed less damage to the beaches than expected.

In some places, the ocean foam got over the dunes, carving up chunks but leaving them relatively intact. The Boardwalk was undamaged, and both the Ventnor and Margate Piers - rumors notwithstanding - were undamaged. Dune fencing was ripped up, and the lifeguard storage shed that had started at Suffolk Avenue and the beach in Ventnor set sail and ended up at the pier about eight blocks away.

Elsewhere, New York City was particularly hard hit, with waters from the storm surge flooding Lower Manhattan and knocking out power to a good portion of the island.

Sandy is weakening but still dangerous as it heads toward Central Pennsylvania this morning, dumping snow and creating blizzard conditions in western Maryland.

Flood warnings remain in effect throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey. A high wind warning is in effect in Delaware, Philadelphia and Bucks counties.

The rain has mostly stopped in the Philadelphia area, and the wind was much calmer, though weakened trees are expected to continue to fall.

Indeed, collapsing trees have been the most treacherous hazard.

Though no deaths have been reported in the immediate Philadelphia area or at the Shore, three people were killed by falling trees in North Jersey, the Associated Press reported. A 62-year-old man died Monday night when a tree fell on the roof of his home in Pike Township, Berks County, Pa.

Philadelphia International Airport is open, but few flights are flying. Passengers are advised to check with their airlines. U.S. Airways, the airport's biggest airline, has suspended all flights for the day.

Amtrak says most of its Northeast Corridor service also is suspended today.

More than 600 people spent the night in shelters in Southeast Pennsylvania, the Red Cross said.

In Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter said this morning the priority will be the removal of the downed trees - some 230 of them - and the cleanup of debris.

He said trees were blocking the Roosevelt Boulevard, Martin Luther King Drive, Kelly Drive, and Lincoln Drive.

Nutter said the Delaware River crested at 10.62 feet, setting a new flooding record, and that officials expect the Schuylkill to crest at 10.1 feet about 2 p.m.

"So the morning now is about assessment, cleanup and still about public safety," the mayor said during an appearance on NBC 10.

Sandy's impact looks certain to linger through Election Day next Tuesday and beyond as the nation faces a what is sure to be a multibillion-dollar recovery effort to undo the damage of a storm that has affected as many as 60 million people from the Carolinas to Maine.

The storm, which has haunted the Northeast for days as it crept northward from the Caribbean, is likely to be one of the costliest to ever hit the East Coast. It could rank with the devastating unnamed hurricane of 1944; Hazel, in 1954; and Floyd, in 1999.

Meteorologists on Monday spoke in awe of what some saw as an "unprecedented" weather system - part hurricane, part wintry storm, all menacing. It came up the coast and made a hard left toward South Jersey's fragile barrier islands.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Tom Kines, a meteorologist at Accu-Weather Inc.

Its lashing winds and relentless rain did more than raise flood waters. Falling trees and boughs brought down power lines, leaving great swaths of region in the dark.

How impressive was this storm? Well, by 1 p.m. Monday, with Sandy still hours from landfall, Atlantic City and Ocean City had become lagoons. Flood waters lapped into Ocean City High School.

By that time, Sandy-incited waves had already smashed an 80-foot section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk into rubble. It was reminiscent of the 1944 storm that sent chunks of the famed promenade floating on floodwaters as high as the tops of parking meters.

Floodwaters attacked Absecon Island on Monday. Margate's beach blocks were swamped at high tide, and at Longport, the bay met the ocean.

An 89-m.p.h. gust, well past hurricane force, was measured at Surf City, a 69-m.p.h. gust at Harvey Cedars, on Long Beach Island. There was a 76-m.p.h. gust in Bensalem, Bucks County.

In advance of the storm, the region was pelted with rain. Both Atlantic City and Rehoboth Beach, Del., recorded eight inches. Final totals could reach double figures in some places before the rains stop, meteorologists said.


Contact Joseph Gambardello at jgambardello@phillynews.com or 856-779-3844.

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