Unable to leave Haddonfield to get to his ocean house made Cerrato's wondering and waiting all the more agonizing.
He finally got word early Tuesday afternoon.
"Friends of ours got to the house and sent us pictures showing no water on the first floor," said Cerrato, his relief palpable. "If you'd have called me an hour ago, I would've sounded much different. Now, I'm a lot less worried."
Cerrato, who works in pharmaceutical sales, said the steady media drumbeat of impending doom before Sandy's landfall Monday night overwhelmed his normally low-key tendencies.
"When I first heard about it, I thought it was no big deal," he said. Cerrato and his wife, Beth, went down to the property before the storm and made sure the place was locked up tight.
But then reports about the storm of the century seeped into Cerrato's head. "Holy cow, I thought, this could be bad. We were then just hoping and praying."
It didn't help that Haddonfield, too, was bracing for Sandy. On Monday night, Cerrato, said, his wife and two sons, ages 8 and 10, "heard electrical transformers blowing, sirens wailing in Haddonfield, and I thought, on top of this, right now the ocean is in our living room in Ocean City."
Thankfully it wasn't, and as soon as he's allowed to get to Ocean City - perhaps Wednesday afternoon, officials told him - Cerrato will know for sure.
A similar set of worries about Sandy's effects both down the Shore and closer to home beset Toni Mansfield, also a Haddonfield resident, whose husband's family owns a home on the lagoon in Ocean City.
"I was more concerned about being in Haddonfield with old, tall trees that might fall," said Mansfield, 47, a stay-at-home mother with two children, 7 and 9.
Unlike Cerrato, she didn't follow the storm news on television, having disconnected her cable system in June.
But Mansfield knew the family's boat was sitting in the water outside the Shore house. "This is not going to be good," she predicted.
Mansfield said Tuesday that she still didn't know what happened to the boat, but that Ocean City neighbors had imparted bad news about the house: It was filled with 18 inches of water.
"This probably shuts down the summer season for us," Mansfield said. "We'll be spending time making repairs."
Still, she added, the situation isn't devastating. "When you have children, you just don't care about other stuff in the same way," Mansfield said. "It'll be a headache, but your ultimate concern is people."
That same philosophy has helped Phil Kunz through the tough time of not knowing what has happened to his house in Harvey Cedars on Long Beach Island.
"It's only property at risk, so it eases the mind a bit," said Kunz, 52, an architect from Medford who is married with two sons, 13 and 8.
Still, Kunz very much wants to know the status of his house on the bay. Built in 1939, the two-story frame home has survived storms large and small.
But no one is being permitted to drive over the causeway to the island, so Kunz is looking for a boat he can sail there.
As it happens, Kunz saw a photo Tuesday of his block. It doesn't show his house, but it does depict his parents' home, still intact.
He takes pride in knowing that, since their two-story, 2,500-square-foot frame home on pilings is the first thing he ever designed, in 1990.
Events like the furious storm called Sandy can give one pause, and Kunz has been doing some thinking since the winds howled.
"Out on the island in the summer, you can get lost in the beautiful days," he said. "But once in a while a storm can come, and it does remind you, the island can be a tough place. This storm was devastating, and it'll be a new image for people about what a storm can be."
Contact Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or firstname.lastname@example.org.