Cape May, Lower spared worst of storm’s wrath

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CAPE MAY – Officials in Cape May and Lower Township expressed relief this week as Hurricane Sandy passed north and caused minimal damage.

Cape May businesses board up their windows in preparation for Hurricane Sandy Sunday, Oct. 28. Cape May businesses board up their windows in preparation for Hurricane Sandy Sunday, Oct. 28.   Cape May businesses board up their windows in preparation for Hurricane Sandy Sunday, Oct. 28. Cape May businesses board up their windows in preparation for Hurricane Sandy Sunday, Oct. 28.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor Edward Mahaney sounded out of breath as he returned phone calls Tuesday morning following a press conference at Congress Hall here, but it might have just been a sigh of relief.

“Damage is minimal,” Mahaney said. “No fatalities, no injuries, one water rescue – but we took care of that ourselves.

“The turn that the storm took before landfall made all of the difference for us,” he added. “Hitting 20 to 25 miles north of here, between Sea Isle City and Ocean City, meant that the winds shifted against the incoming tides, and the timing – some two hours before high tide – saved us from immense flooding.”

Mahaney said the city was on track with the 1962 storm in terms of damage until the storm’s track moved north. The March 7, 1962 Ash Wednesday nor’easter destroyed Cape May’s boardwalk, beachfront and old Convention Hall.

The $10.5 million Convention Hall on Beach Avenue weathered Sandy without a hitch. City public works crews piled sand in front of the building Saturday, hoping to stop or slow the storm’s onslaught. 

“We got a look at the interior and saw no damage. We’ve inspected the exterior and have noted no damage there either,” said Mahaney. “The water came up under the hall at Monday morning’s high tide, but didn’t come within 30 feet of the hall last night.”

McGlade’s Resturant, at 722 Beach Avenue, did sustain some damage from the high tides, according to the mayor.

“The southern wall of the restaurant was breached, but the building was not compromised. They are putting up plywood,” Mahaney said.

Public works crews were out along Beach Avenue starting at 4 a.m. Tuesday to remove sand dumped on the roadway by the storm.

“The crews were removing from one to five feet of sand in places,” Mahaney said. “We wanted to clear the sand and clear storm drains. As of this morning, Wilmington Avenue was the only area with standing water, and that began to recede as the drains were uncovered.”

The mayor reported about 10 trees downed throughout the city, but that “none of them hit structures or cars.” Power outages were minimal and utility crews were responding to reports of downed wires.

“We had about 500 people left in town,” Mahaney said. “About 100 were working or volunteering with the Office of Emergency Management or the city, and another 100 were media that came into the area.

“The media personnel were lodged at Congress Hall, so at least we knew where they were throughout,” he said, noting that television crews were sent to the city from most major networks. “Most people paid attention to the evacuation order.”

Mahaney said the fire and police departments are still fully manned. Communications with county officials helped things run smoothly, he said.

“Over the last four years, the planning, preparation and communication amongst the municipalities, the county and the state has improved immensely,” he said. “We were getting information updates regularly, conferencing with the governor twice daily and getting responses for whatever we needed. The coordination at the county level was excellent.”

Cape May opened to residents on Wednesday. Police had blockaded the entrances to the city.

The mayor declined to put a price tag on the storm’s damage, but shared his disappointment over the bite that Sandy took out of the Audobon Society’s Birding show at Convention Hall Saturday.

“That’s an event that can easily draw more than 1,000 people for a day,” Mahaney said. “But, the storm’s forecast kept people away on Saturday. That show had the potential to be a real boon for businesses here.”

The residents of Lower Township weathered Hurricane Sandy with their homes, property and lives largely intact, said Mayor Michael Beck.

“We fared a lot better than we anticipated,” he said, after touring the 32 square mile township. “We are now trying to assess the damage and determine community needs.

“I am so proud of this community. People listened to and heeded warnings and orders, and with the work done by our emergency services, police, Office of Emergency Management and public works personnel, it all ran like clockwork.”

Beck said there was flooding damage “where you’d expect it after 10 to 12 inches of rain in such a short period of time.” There were also some power outages, he said.

“One house we saw lost a porch, and there are trees and limbs down on property,” he said.

Beck reported no storm-related injuries or fatalities.

“Anytime you get through these kinds of events with no injuries – to residents or emergency responders – you are grateful,” he said. “We still have all hands on deck right now and will stay ready to respond to the needs of the people here.”

The township was spared serious damage by Sandy’s quickening pace and northern turn as it approached the southern portion of Cape May County, Beck said.

“The way the storm accelerated, it really gave us a break,” he said.

The Villas and Town Bank Fire Companies were set up as emergency shelters for township residents. Villas Fire Company housed about 50 residents. The Town Bank Fire Company was set up to shelter as well, said Beck.

“We had two shelters set up, in case we had a situation where 100 people showed up. All of the fire companies manned their stations and did great work throughout the township,” he said.

Several areas of the township were under mandatory evacuation orders, although Beck said the evacuation was voluntary for the township. “If you had someplace else to go, it was better to go,” he said.

“We learn new lessons every time we have this kind of event,” said Beck. “We will take note and do better next time. People have been very cooperative. I couldn’t be prouder of this community.”

A group of people visit Broadway Beach to check out the waves Sunday, Oct. 28, the day before Sandy hit. A group of people visit Broadway Beach to check out the waves Sunday, Oct. 28, the day before Sandy hit.   Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast. Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast.   Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast. Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast.   Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast. Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast.   Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast. Surfers enjoy the waves brought in by the hurricane coming up the coast.   A man attempts to get his final day of fishing in at the Cove and gets showered by the surf. A man attempts to get his final day of fishing in at the Cove and gets showered by the surf.   Visitors take photos of the Cove in Cape May and take in the view before the storm. Visitors take photos of the Cove in Cape May and take in the view before the storm.   The jetty at the Cove runs down alongside the Cove Restaurant before the storm. The jetty at the Cove runs down alongside the Cove Restaurant before the storm.   Grant Street in West Cape May holds onto flood waters Tuesday, Oct. 30. Grant Street in West Cape May holds onto flood waters Tuesday, Oct. 30.   Siding is torn from a house on South Broadway in Cape May from high winds. Siding is torn from a house on South Broadway in Cape May from high winds.   The jetty next to the Cove Restaurant is covered with sand after the storm and the restaurant survived the tidal surge. The jetty next to the Cove Restaurant is covered with sand after the storm and the restaurant survived the tidal surge.   Strong waves and high water reshape the dune along the promenade in Cape May pushing most of the sand into the street and tearing down the fence. Strong waves and high water reshape the dune along the promenade in Cape May pushing most of the sand into the street and tearing down the fence.   Strong waves and high water reshape the dune along the promenade in Cape May pushing most of the sand into the street and tearing down the fence. Strong waves and high water reshape the dune along the promenade in Cape May pushing most of the sand into the street and tearing down the fence.   The sand berm in front of the lifeguard station is worn down from the ocean. The sand berm in front of the lifeguard station is worn down from the ocean.   The Washington Street Mall sits empty after the storm. The Washington Street Mall sits empty after the storm.   The mall suffered minor damage with a couple of trees fallen over. The mall suffered minor damage with a couple of trees fallen over.   Part of the promenade is torn up by the surf. Part of the promenade is torn up by the surf.   Sand has filled in Beach Avenue in the Poverty Beach end of Cape May. Sand has filled in Beach Avenue in the Poverty Beach end of Cape May.   A sink hole sits at the intersection of Wilmington and Beach avenues. A sink hole sits at the intersection of Wilmington and Beach avenues.   Onlookers stop and check out the street sign at Wilmington and Beach avenues buried in several feet of sand. Onlookers stop and check out the street sign at Wilmington and Beach avenues buried in several feet of sand.   Onlookers stop and check out the street sign at Wilmington and Beach avenues buried in several feet of sand. Onlookers stop and check out the street sign at Wilmington and Beach avenues buried in several feet of sand.   The intersection of Wilmington and New York avenues retains flood water after the storm Tuesday, Oct. 30. The intersection of Wilmington and New York avenues retains flood water after the storm Tuesday, Oct. 30.  

 


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