When John Ganiris got the first look at his parents house in Ocean City since Hurricane Sandy ravaged the city, he couldn't believe what he saw. The first floor looked more like a beach, completely covered in sand.
"I can't believe it," he said. "I didn't think it was gonna come up this high! I thought the dunes would have definitely stopped it."
It's been three days since Sandy took aim at the Jersey shore. And many people are finally getting their first look at the damage left behind, and beginning the difficult task of cleaning up.
For some, just getting home is a tough job.
"I sat for two and a half hours, waiting to get onto the island, which was pretty stressful," said Bob Edlemen of Ocean City.
Homeowners and shopkeepers returned to Stone Harbor and Avalon Thursday to see the damage Hurricane Sandy left behind on her tour of the shore.
At Hoy’s 5 and 10, there’s quite a mess. "Getting in the front door, the merchandise had just gone off the shelves, floated to the front doors," said owner David Hoy. "And the mud and the smell. It was just depressing.”
Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Chris Christie visited residents in Moonachie, N.J. The town was completely cut off by flooding. Christie promised immediate help is on the way to all the devastated towns.
“We'll have FEMA disaster recovery centers set up in every county, beginning tomorrow, as well as mobile units that will move around counties," Christie said. "This will ensure on-the-ground assistance for every community -- individual needs and public assistance needs.”
“We’re in the triage-and-attack phase now of the storm, so we can restore power, reopen schools, bring public transportation back on line and allow people to return to their homes if they've been displaced,” Christie said.
President Barack Obama toured the Sandy-wrecked Jersey Shore Wednesday alongside Gov. Christie, promising victims that the federal government would "be here for the long haul" to help the region dig out and recover.
"We are here for you and we will not forget," Obama said. "We will follow up to make sure you get all the help you need to rebuild."
- If your property suffered damage from Sandy, you can already contact FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or DisasterAssistance.Gov
FEMA workers are going door-to-door in beach communities Thursday to register residents who have no power, phone or computer access.
Gas has become a precious commodity across the region. Some people are so desperate for fuel, they’re driving miles to find it. Once there they are waiting in long lines to get it -- and even fighting for it.
Adam Casper drove from Jersey to Allentown, Pa., to fuel up.
"I heard this was the best place to get it, even if we drive a half-hour you might as well, cause the lines," Casper said. "People are getting into fights, it’s bad."
In Easton, police broke up a fight at the pump between customers. More than half the city was still without power Thursday. Officials say they’re worried about the elderly getting cold and hungry.
- Click here to find a list of some open gas stations in N.J.
"We’ve never experienced something like this in terms of the large number of people without power," said Easton city administrator Glenn Steckman. "There seems to be a lack of response, frankly from Met-Ed."
Power is slowly being restored post-Sandy. Heavy rains, high winds and downed trees knocked down power lines, causing extensive electrical outages across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware as Sandy made landfall Monday.
About 175,000 PECO customers were without power as of 10 p.m. Thursday:
- Bucks -110,000
- Chester - 5,000
- Delaware - 5,000
- Montgomery - 60,000 (About 2,00 of those in Lower Merion)
- Philadelphia - 5,000
Delmarva: (as of 9 p.m.)
- Only 89 total outages in our area.
AC Electric: (as of 9 p.m.)
- Atlantic - 14,742
- Burlington - 744
- Camden - 57
- Cape May - 6,911
- Cumberland - 3,985
- Gloucester - 2,669
- Ocean - 23,242
- Salem - 388
PPL: (as of 9 p.m.)
- Berks - 11
- Bucks - 17,998
- Lehigh - 47,951
- Montgomery - 6,111
- Northampton - 23,258
By noon Thursday, about 780,000 PSE&G customers in New Jersey were still without power. New estimates now indicate that the number of customers impacted by Sandy was 1.7 million on PSE&G customers. Initial estimates were 1.2 million.
Crews are working as fast as they can, officials say. More than 500 tree contractors will be available to clear damaged tress, limbs and power lines. To report a power outage please call (800) 436-7734.
The American Red Cross is providing aid to those left without food, water or power.
Workers are handing out MRE’s -- "Meals Ready to Eat" -- and water in Bristol Township, Pa., to residents with no power and nothing left to cook.
"A lot of food that they’ve had in their fridge and their freezers has gone bad. So this will be able to get them through the next couple of days," said Stacey Emery.
The help is welcome.
"We’ve been barbecuing for two days and then everything ran out, everything thawed out," said April Ballard of Bristol.
If you need help, the American Red Cross has a 24-hour emergency hotline. The number is 1-800-RED-CROSS.
If you are having trouble getting prescription medicine, click here for help.
The NJ Department of Health is making public health experts available through the state's 2-1-1 system to answer questions about food and water safety and mold removal.
To reach health experts, call 2-1-1 or 1-866-234-0964. Public Health officials will be available to take calls 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. The 2-1-1 human services hotline is open 24/7.
"The devastation across our state is unprecedented and the process of cleanup has just begun. During this difficult time, many New Jersey residents will have questions about food and water safety as well as mold cleanup efforts and we want to help,” said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.
Health experts can answer questions about personal health and safety concerns; cleaning and mold removal; carbon monoxide concerns and food and drinking water safety.