Pleasantville storm devastation ‘catastrophic,’ mayor says

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PLEASANTVILLE – Mayor Jesse Tweedle Sr. took a tour of the city Tuesday morning and described the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy on this community of 20,000 people as “catastrophic.”

“The yacht basin is gone,” he said of the city-owned facility at the end of East Edgewater Avenue and Lakes Bay. “It’s broken up. The loading ramp is halfway down the block. There are two boats just floating down the street.”

In recent years, the city has spent money to improve its yacht basin and make it an attractive location for boaters who wanted a place to dock their crafts near Atlantic City.

The privately owned Pleasantville Yacht Club has water inside it as well, the mayor said.

Hurricane Sandy came ashore at roughly 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, packing winds of 75 mph with higher gusts.

The storm was so large – stretching from Maine to North Carolina – that it began affecting Pleasantville and its residents as early as Sunday evening as tides began to rise to near-record levels.

Fueled by Sandy’s strong winds and the Oct. 29 full moon, the bay waters reached as far inland as Franklin Boulevard.

Cars, homes and businesses were flooded by the storm’s record tides.

No local deaths or injuries were reported as a result of Hurricane Sandy, the mayor said.

“This is more catastrophic than the derecho,” he said. “Then, our biggest problem was straight-line winds. This was all about the water.”

Tweedle said his emergency management team began meeting Friday to assess Hurricane Sandy’s threats to the region and to prepare the city’s response. The team is comprised of firefighter Deron Smith, the city’s emergency management coordinator; Police Chief Jose Ruiz and Capt. Rocky Melendez; Fire Chief Robert Hoffman; business administrator Linda Peyton; and police communications supervisor Fred Woods.

“The biggest thing was to get people to be prepared – for example, to have enough gasoline for their generators and water to drink,” the mayor said. “We wanted people to know that after the storm reached a certain wind speed, our police wouldn’t be able to respond to them.”

In addition, the city had to warn residents to be prepared to evacuate to the city’s two evacuation centers, the High School and the Middle School, which were manned by American Red Cross volunteers led by executive director Carol Cohen.

“I can’t say enough for Carol Cohen of the Red Cross and Dr. Garnell Bailey, the superintendent of schools, for their help and service,” the mayor said. “Dr. Bailey has been there at the high school since the storm began.”

More than 430 people were staying at the two schools, Cohen said. They were expected to remain there until at least Thursday.

As a result, the High School and Middle School will be closed through the end of the week.

“There’s a lot of damage on the White Horse Pike, and we are still waiting for the water to recede so we can assess the damage on the other roads,” Tweedle said.

As of Tuesday morning, all routes into Atlantic City were closed, including the White Horse Pike, Delilah Road and the Atlantic City Expressway, all of which pass through Pleasantville.

The White Horse Pike could be closed for months because a portion was washed out, and the other roadways could be closed for a week.

“Right now we want to keep people off the streets because of the water and because of live wires,” the mayor said.

Tweedle also praised the efforts of James Hubbard, the city’s assistant director of public works.

“He’s done a yeoman’s job and deserves a tremendous amount of praise,” the mayor said. “I had to tell him to go home and to take a break. He’s been out there nonstop. He takes a real personal pride in what he does.”

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