Trees spare lives – but little else

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A crushed 1998 Honda Accord lies in wait of insurance adjusters in front of a home at 136 Washington Ave., Egg Harbor City.

EGG HARBOR CITY – Looking out over his fiancé’s crushed 1998 Honda Accord, Andre Johnson was thankful despite the damage.

"I’m thankful that nobody was hurt or killed," he said from the front porch of his home at 136 London Ave. on the city’s west side. "I can always buy another car."

When Friday night’s storms blew through the state, sending almost all of South Jersey into darkness, Johnson’s home stood as a target for nature’s wrath.

The same backward C-shaped line of thunderstorms was born south of Chicago and gained intensity as it crossed the country affecting residents in 14 states.

By the time the storms had passed, millions of electric customers, including more than 200,000 Atlantic City Electric customers, were without power. West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., were in a state of emergency.

Locally, Mays Landing and Egg Harbor City appeared to suffer the most severe damage.

"It was crazy," Johnson said. "It sounded like somebody was shaking all of the trees all at once. It was worse than Hurricane Irene."

And then he heard a pop and the sound of a tree scraping against the house where he had lived for the past 11 years.

Instantly, he knew what the sound meant.

"I knew a tree had fallen," he said.

However, it wasn’t until Johnson looked outside that he realized the incredible scope of the damage caused by straight-line winds.

A towering, 100-plus-year-old tree split in half and came crashing down from across the street. It bounced off of two trees in front of Johnson’s house before landing on the car.

"I’m not mad that a tree fell on the car," he said. "I’m thankful for the two that broke its fall and kept us from getting killed."

Across the street, neighbor Christina Linus surveyed the damage from her front porch and shook her head in disbelief on Monday morning, some 60 hours after the storms roared through.

"I feel so terrible about the car," she said. "I heard the pop and I knew a tree fell over."

However, Linus said it was so dark, she couldn’t tell how bad the damage was until the storm had passed.

"Then at about 2 a.m. there must have been about 16 of us out in the street looking at all of the damage and at what had happened," she said.

Linus, who has lived on London Avenue for 13 years, said Friday night’s storm was worse than anything she had ever experienced.

"This was worse than Irene," she said.

Around the corner, as a large tree sat on top of a crushed, late-model Jeep Wrangler, Hilda Naveja cleared the damage from in front of her home at 210 Washington Ave.

"The top of it hit my 1996 Ford Explorer," she said while looking at the Wrangler. "It damaged the roof rack and the handle, but it could have been much worse. It didn’t hit my house."

Naveja and her family went without power until Sunday. However, her neighbors across the street were still waiting to have their power restored as of Monday afternoon.

On the south side of the city, John Madison sat out in front of his house at 458 S. Philadelphia Ave. where an uprooted, large Maple tree crashed through his porch roof.

He was the lucky one, however. The same tree crashed through the roof of his neighbor’s home at 456 S. Philadelphia Ave., causing water and structural damage.

"This was the worst winds I have ever seen," he said. "Offshore it can be worse, but this was the worst on the mainland."

During the storm, the sound of the wind picked as the storm got closer, he said.

"My daughter heard the glass break and she said, ‘What was that?’" said Madison, who looked out front and realized the scope of the damage.

"I knew the house was still safe because the tree only hit the roof of the porch," he said.
An uprooted maple tree lies across the front porch of the home at 458 S. Philadelphia Ave. and through the roof of 456 S. Philadelphia Ave. An uprooted maple tree lies across the front porch of the home at 458 S. Philadelphia Ave. and through the roof of 456 S. Philadelphia Ave. An uprooted maple tree lies across the front porch of the home at 458 S. Philadelphia Ave. and through the roof of 456 S. Philadelphia Ave. As rugged as a Jeep Wrangler may be, this 4WD off-roader parked at 209 Washington Ave. was no match for Mother Nature’s brute force.

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