Angela Delli Santi, AP (pool report distributed by the Governor’s office)
Gov. Chris Christie took a four-and-a-half-hour helicopter tour of New
Jersey’s Sandy-ravaged coast on Tuesday, stopping in Belmar and Avalon
to survey the damage firsthand and to offer a sympathetic ear and
encouraging word to residents and first-responders.
In Belmar, which was hit hard by the storm, Christie encountered one
woman who cried and a man, Walter Patrickis, 42, who told him,
“governor, I lost everything.”
From the air, Christie and several cabinet members saw homes surrounded
by water, residential blocks ending in the bay, submerged gazebos, roads
made impassable by drifted sand, a few smoldering fires where
foundations used to be, and boats piled into one another like toys. The
hardest-hit area appeared to be north of where Sandy made landfall, from
Seaside to Belmar.
“I was just here walking this place this summer, and the fact that most
of it is gone is just incredible,” Christie told Belmar Mayor Matt
Doherty while surveying damage on Ocean Avenue.
The boardwalk south of 10th Avenue had been washed away. A seaside
trailer was knocked off its foundation. The continued high winds were
keeping power crews from starting repairs at the shore.
“We’re probably looking at a 7- to 10-day minimum to get power back
statewide,” Christie said. Someone in the crowd groaned.
Doherty said pre-storm conference calls between the governor’s office
and local mayors helped them be as prepared as possible. Doherty had
issued a mandatory evacuation for Belmar, surrounded on three sides by
water, which he told Christie most residents heeded.
Christie said when he issued his now-famous “get the hell off the beach”
line last year it was because he was expecting Hurricane Irene to cause
the kind of destruction that Sandy caused.
Once the weather clears and the waters recede, damage assessments will
“Now we’ve got a big task ahead of us that we have to do together. This
is the kind of thing New Jerseyans are built for – we’re plenty tough
and now we have a little more reason to be angry after this. Just what
we need in New Jersey, a chance to be a little more angry.”
Further south, in Avalon, the governor talked with Cape May County
officials and met with first-responders.
He said for now no one was being allowed back on barrier islands. He
said the decision to allow residents to return may be made on a
county-by-county basis. He said decisions on school re-openings could
also be made the same way, once officials are assured that returning to
school won’t imperil children, teachers or bus drivers.
“We’d like to get kids back to school and back to normalcy as quickly as
we can,” He said.
He urged residents living on barrier islands or with summer homes there
to have patience.
“I’m not going to authorize any re-entry to the barrier islands
east-bound until further notice,” Christie said, saying he’ll be
assessing the situation a two or three times a day.
“The storm surge was just incredible,” Christie told the officials. “The
river flooding that we got in Irene of the Raritan and the Passaic, we
didn’t get any of that this time, but it was all storm surge. That’s
what you’re seeing here.”
Cape May County Freeholder Gerald Thornton told Christie that Avalon
and Cape May fared pretty well but that Ocean City and Sea Isle
sustained more damage.
Christie said to expect an executive order later in the week
“It might even be funny to reschedule Halloween for Election Day,” the
governor said. The line got a chuckle from the local officials.