Bumper to bumper as Atlantic Co. residents return
BRIGANTINE, N.J. - November 1, 2012 (WPVI) -- Parts of Atlantic County were reopened to the public Thursday afternoon, while some sections are still off limits.
It was shock and discovery as people returned to their storm-ravaged homes three days after Sandy came powering through.
"I took a yardstick when we got home, I think 38 inches of water," Susanne Tochterman of Brigantine said Thursday night.
For the Tochtermans, the water's gone, but a thick blanket of mud remains.
"I just never thought water would do so much damage," Susanne said.
The couple returned to their home late Thursday afternoon after the evacuation order was lifted.
Traffic was bumper to bumper with people anxious to check on their homes, but there was a catch - no ID meant no entry.
Emergency authorities were initially reluctant to opening up the bridges to more than official work crews.
Without power and working traffic signals and many streets crowded with equipment moving sand the concern was public safety.
But eventually residents were given a green light to return to Margate, Longport, Brigantine, but not Atlantic City or Ventnor because of public health concerns.
While the casinos would like to see Atlantic City reopened, there's no word on when that will happen, and Ventnor is remaining closed due to a problem with the sewers.
There are still internal police checkpoints; it allows residents and authorized workers in, but keeps out sightseers and would-be looters.
Chopper 6 aerial images of Brigantine provided the Tochterman's a first glimpse of Sandy's aftermath.
"It actually helped mentally prepare myself somewhat for what we would come back to see," Susanne said.
Sandy left her mark, but thankfully, the damage is only temporary.
"As long as you're safe and haven't been injured and hurt, everything else can be replaced in time," Susanne said.
The scene at the North End of Brigantine earlier in the day was just short of bizarre. Boats from the North Point Marina, carried away by waves, sat in all sorts of places - in driveways and up against houses.
Donna Vanzant of North Point Marina says she's heartbroken to see her clients' valuable boats tossed around like bathtub toys.
"For blocks, behind people's houses. What happened is it wasn't the wind it was more water, the surge. It just picked them up and they floated away. It's crazy. We lost everything. All our docks are gone. The garage is, all the tools, everything's gone," says Vanzant.
And the marina isn't the only business that was affected. Bill Mayer owns Clamdaddy's. His docks were destroyed, the hatchery broken apart and covered with seaweed.
Mayer tells us, "We lost equipment. Equipment went down the road. We tried to get as much stuff out of here as we could, but we just couldn't get it all out."
Elsewhere in Brigantine, awnings were shredded, trees toppled, and docks and boardwalks torn apart. Scott Oliveri's block is one of the lowest in town. Floodwaters sent his furniture floating around his living room.
He couldn't stand not knowing the condition of his house. He got a ride on a boat to come check it out. And he says he understands that residents of the barrier islands are getting very frustrated with the ban on travel.
"The roads are kind of clear. You can get in, you can get off. There's no power, but people want to get back and see what happened to their house and you know fix and get back to some normalcy," explained Oliveri.
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