Hurricane Sandy update: Local residents banned from barrier island up to 8 months
(NJ.COM) Residents are being forcibly evacuated tonight from seven Ocean County communities because of extensive repairs needed after the devastation Hurricane Sandy left behind, Seaside Height Police Chief Thomas Boyd said.
Authorities told residents they may not be able to return home for months.
“It’s looking bad. It’s a catastrophe,” Boyd said.
The towns affected are Seaside Heights, Seaside Park, island sections of Berkeley Township, South Seaside Park, Lavallette, Ortley Beach and Mantoloking.
The decision followed an afternoon meeting among the chiefs of police in the affected communities and other county authorities.
Busloads of people were being escorted out, with several residents interviewed saying police and fire officials knocked on their doors, telling them they had five minutes to pack a bag before they had to leave.
Boyd said he thinks no more than 50 people remain in Seaside Heights. He said repairs need to be done to the infrastructure of the affected areas, along with the main gas line, from Mantoloking to Island Beach State Park, which needs to be reconstructed, and should take between six and eight months.
Other repairs that need to be done include a collapsed sewer in Seaside Heights.
“We were just trying to figure out where we were going to go with this, and the best thing is to get people out of the way,” the chief said. “We’re doing mandatory evacuations to get people out. We want people to know that it’s not just for safety. It’s for other reasons so that we can get in there and work and do what we have to do.”
Residents will be able to return at some point, with police escorts, to gather their belongings.
Boyd said he fully understood the frustration residents will feel, but the evacuation are necessary to ensure their safety.
“Overall, we’re in very very good shape because we have the people in place to do the job at the right time. We’ve pretty much got Seaside on lockdown and that’s what we’ve go tot do to make it safe.”
Mary Jo Etheridge, 76, a Seaside Heights resident, said she was given about five minutes to pack a bag before she was put on a bus that took her west on Route 37 into Toms River. Her possessions were shoved into shopping bags.
There are 14,210 residential properties on the barrier island stretching south from the northern border of Mantoloking with a combined assessed value of $9.8 billion. There are 377 commercial properties, with an assessed value of $505 million. This does not include the 5,240 parcels that do not appear to have records associated with them.
The barrier island stretches for 20.4 miles, half of which has homes.
Star-Ledger staff writers Dan Goldberg, Alexi Friedman and Eric Sagara contributed to this report.