The returning residents of Ortley Beach say their beloved Jersey Shore town -- north of Seaside Heights -- looks like a war zone.
"Everything was totally destroyed," said Patty Charowsky. "I figured it would be bad but not like this."
For the first time since Sandy tore apart parts of the Jersey Shore, residents were allowed back into Ortley Beach, which is part of Toms River Township, Wednesday. They could only access the town by bus and were given just a few hours to survey damage and clean up.
"It was rough sleeping last night and once we got off the bus, came down here, we just cried for like five minutes." That's how Patty's husband, Bob Charowsky, described their reaction on seeing their destroyed vacation home of 30 years.
Five feet of water that tore through the home, "knocked the refrigerator down." said Charowsky.
The Charowskys were at least allowed back to survey the damage for a few hours. Other parts of Ortley Beach remained closed -- too unsafe to allow people back.
In one house, Sandy’s strong storm surge wedged a large boat inside the kitchen.
"We don’t have any injuries yet and we want to be able to continue that," said Toms River Police Chief Michael Mastronardy.
Because of that any residents returning to Ortley or other hard hit areas of the township are being told they are doing so at their own risk.
"This is ground zero for us," said Mastronardy.
Police also removed the barriers on Route 36 in Sea Bright Wednesday. That clears the way for residents and non-residents to travel along Ocean Avenue. Lavallette residents will be permitted to drive to their homes over the Route 37 Bridge.
Access to both locations is limited and residents must leave early in the afternoon.