After Sandy: "I Thought We Were Dead"

After devastating flooding and damage, region begins road to recovery

Friday, Sep 20, 2013  |  Updated 12:40 PM EDT
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David Anthony and his wife were stuck in their house on Barnegat Bay across from Long Beach Island when water began to rise Monday. They went to their upstairs bedroom and tied five bedsheets together thinking they might need to use them as a rope to escape as the winds and surge pounded the home.
 
"It was like somebody taking a massive sledgehammer to the wall,'' Anthony said Tuesday. "I thought we were dead. Even if we did get out the window, the waves were so powerful.''

Anthony and his wife, Ann Felice, both 64, hunkered down and survived the storm. Now, like the rest of the region, they're trying to rebuild.

But debris and damage from Sandy continue to hinder recovery efforts in New Jersey.

Impassable roads are keeping firefighters from responding to series of natural gas fires in Mantoloking. An emergency management official says the flames rekindled Wednesday where about 14 homes were destroyed two days ago.

Motorists face numerous blocked roads and traffic lights that aren't working.

Newark Liberty International Airport reopened. However, travelers should check with airlines to determine if they're flying.

President Barack Obama plans to join Gov. Chris Christie on a tour of the damage Wednesday.

He’s due to land in Atlantic City around 1 p.m.

Christie said Tuesday that he plans to ask the president to assign the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start working on how to rebuild beaches and find ``the best way to rebuild the beach to protect these towns.''
 
While that sounds like a notion that would be hard to disagree with, it can be contentious.
 
New Jersey's shore has been a political battleground over beach replenishment projects. Some oceanfront homeowners object to building up dunes. Sure, they may protect their properties' integrity, but higher dunes can damage pristine ocean views and the property values that come with them.
 
And some environmental groups have objected to replenishment plans, too, partly because of fears of contamination in the sand that's being moved around.
 
New Jersey is still assessing damage from this week's storm.
 
Sandy was being blamed for at least 12 deaths across the state, plus power outages that at their peak Monday affected 2.7 million residential and commercial customers. The lights were out in Jersey City and most of Newark and in other communities scattered all over the state.
 
Besides ravaging beaches, the storm swept homes off their foundations in some coastal communities, wrecked some boardwalks and knocked amusement park rides from piers in Seaside Heights.
 
By Tuesday, access was still restricted onto barrier islands such as Long Beach Island, Ocean City and the one that includes Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.
 
Atlantic City's 12 casinos remained closed.

Pennsylvanians made it through two days of rain and wind from Sandy on Tuesday with hopes of connecting back to the electrical grid, plans to finish cleaning up leaves and limbs and the prospect of returning to jobs or the classroom.

The storm that did so much damage along the coast before it drenched Pennsylvania was blamed for 12 deaths in the state. It was more than a mild inconvenience for the million-plus who lost power and the countless others whose homes were damaged by blowing rain and falling trees, but it was not the disaster for the state that some had feared.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett toured Montgomery County on Wednesday. At a stop in Dresher, Corbett praised the hard work of PECO crews working long hours to restore power. And he thanked the thousands of workers who traveled from as far away as Mississippi to help.

"They're up here working 16-hour days, after a two and a half day drive to get here" the governor said.

He promised there would be power at all Pennsylvania polling places for the November 6 election.

 "PECO said every polling place, for Tuesday's election, will all have electricity" said Corbett. The governor added he's asked the secretary of state to contact election boards. "If there's a problem, we want to know now."

Corbett said there was good planning and good reaction around the state.

"Everybody took this one seriously" he said..

The governor says about 825-thousand people are still without power across the state.  And about 300 roads and bridges are out.

Power outages were the storm's most damaging byproduct. Officials were reluctant to predict when most people would see service restored, saying the extent of the damage was still being surveyed.

The winds ripped leaves from trees, carpeting the ground with a colorful blanket and adding to slick conditions and creating work for homeowners.

Bill Crouch spent his Tuesday morning cleaning up fallen tree limbs from around his house and shed in Levittown, where a neighbor's tree was uprooted during the storm but did not cause any property damage.

Crouch had been without power since Monday evening. His biggest challenges were finding ice to keep his food from spoiling and batteries to keep his hand-held radio and flashlights working.

"We've got plenty of food, but we don't know how long this is going to last,'' he said. "That's the dilemma right here.''

Measured by the number of outages it caused, Sandy was a historic storm, ranking in the top three statewide.

Tammy Bertel and her husband lost power at their Harleysville home on Monday night, their first extended outage since moving into their house 15 years ago. But she took it in stride, calling it a minor inconvenience.

"We are perfectly fine. If we have to, we'll go stay in a hotel or with friends,'' Bertel said. "I've camped in the middle of a rainstorm. I'm not that high maintenance to begin with. It's not that big of a deal.''

After two days off, state government workers were expected back on the job Wednesday.

Driving remained tricky in spots, as hundreds of local roads and bridges in eastern Pennsylvania were left impassable because of downed trees and power lines or flooding.

Corbett said the state was hearing reports that Amtrak and Philadelphia's mass transit system was slowly going back on line, a hopeful sign for travelers and commuters after two days of frustration.

SEPTA's regional rail was fully restored.

The nine storm-attributed deaths in Pennsylvania included an elderly Lancaster County man who fell from a tree he was trimming in advance of the approaching storm and a teen who struck a fallen tree while riding an ATV in Northampton County.

In eastern Pennsylvania, a 66-year-old man died of carbon monoxide poisoning and several other people were taken to a hospital after being overcome by fumes from a generator running in a garage because they had no electric power,and a 90-year-old suburban Philadelphia woman was found dead of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning from a generator turned on when the storm cut power to her home.

An 8-year-old boy died when a tree limb fell on him in Franklin Township, north of Montrose. In Berks County, a 62-year-old man died after a tree fell on top of a house in Pike Township, near Boyertown. And in Somerset County, a woman died when the car in which she was a passenger skidded off a snowy, slushy roadway and overturned into a pond.

In south-central Pennsylvania, firefighters rescued a York County woman Monday night after she jumped into a raging creek to ``save'' some wild ducks. Justina Laniewski, 41, was plucked from neck-high waters and then charged with risking a catastrophe and public drunkenness, among other offenses.

Despite Sandy's huge size and soaking rains, landlocked Pennsylvania managed to avoid the kind of widespread, catastrophic flooding that marked Hurricane Irene in August 2011 and Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011. It also fared far better than New York and New Jersey.

The state announced it had set up ``megashelters'' at West Chester and East Stroudsburg universities to house up to 1,800 evacuees from those neighboring states, but a few hours later learned they would not be needed. Pennsylvania also was sending help to its coastal neighbors, including 35 ambulances and a search-and-rescue unit specializing in collapsed buildings.

‘’I'm certainly glad I'm not Gov. (Chris) Christie or Gov. (Andrew) Cuomo right now, with what they're facing,'' Corbett said.

Along with widespread power outages, Sandy will be remembered in Pennsylvania for its howling, middle-of-the-night winds. Anything that wasn't tied down or stowed was at risk of becoming airborne. Wind gusts reached 81 mph in Allentown and 76 mph in Bensalem, outside Philadelphia, according to the National Weather Service.

At the height of superstorm Sandy, many kids are probably worried Halloween might be canceled. But Delaware cities say trick-or-treating is still on this year.
 
The News Journal reports
that Wilmington, Dover, Delaware City, New Castle City and Newark are all going ahead with Halloween plans on Wednesday night.

Even storm-ravaged Rehoboth Beach says Halloween is still on. Town manager Gregory Ferrese says ``you can't make kids cry'' this year. So the town will welcome trick-or-treaters as usual.
 
State police officials say they will be handing out candy at their homes as well.

Wilmington and Middletown will have curfews, though. In Middletown, it's 9 p.m. for kids in Halloween costumes and 10 p.m. for all children. In Wilmington, the curfew is 9 p.m. for children 12 and younger.

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