Hundreds of spectators filled the decks of the Sea Isle City Library while a Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin Helicopter performed a rescue demonstration over the nearby wetlands. The demonstration commemorated the military evacuations that carried residents to safety during the Storm of 1962.
SEA ISLE CITY – To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the infamous Storm of 1962, the Sea Isle City Historical Society, in partnership with the Sea Isle City branch of the Cape May County Library, offered a series of special events that included panel discussions, the dedication of original artwork, temporary museum exhibits and a rescue demonstration by the United States Coast Guard.
Stewart Farrell, PhD, director the Richard Stockton Coastal Research Center in Port Republic, provided the following commentary on what the March 1962 storm means to us today as it relates to the subject of shore protection.
The lesson learned was that little perspective on what big storms could do was truly devastating when one happened. The dunes had been pushed down for a better view; the homes placed 25 feet from the high tide line. No regulations on building codes, site selection or damage avoidance. This storm spawned the development of the National Flood Insurance Program.
CAPE MAY – The good bones of this centuries old resort were rattled by the Great Atlantic Storm of 1962, but left intact.
"It was the only nor'easter that the weather bureau has named," said Harry Bellangy of the Greater Cape May Historical Society. "The storm sat here for three days and beat on the city through five high tides, one after another, with the winds from the northeast keeping the water in the bays. The water just kept coming up and up and up.
Fifty years later there are a few on the island who remember the March 1962 storm that ravaged the East Coast and in particular – Brigantine. At that time, the island had a population of approximately of 1,200 residents. An unusual storm – it was not one of our nor' easters or a hurricane – but a convergence of factors that resulted in one of the most fierce ocean storms of historical record. It struck with unbelievable fury as it destroyed residences along the beachfront.
Thursday, March 08, 2012 12:44 pm
PORTREPUBLIC – If the Great Atlantic Storm of 1962 were to put in a repeat performance in 2012, experts say the resulting damage would likely be far less severe because of the work being done on the frontlines of shore protection.
Daniel Barone, left, chief of geospacial analysis at the Coastal Research Center, and B. Steven Howard, geospatial analyst, are two scientists working on the frontlines of shore protection.
Thursday, March 08, 2012 12:16 pm
BRIGANTINE – Thirteenth Street is the last street on the northernmost tip of the island, only a block long between beach and bayfront. When the storm of ’62 hit, the bay and the ocean met on the narrow thoroughfare, according to Brigantine native Verna Cherry, who now lives in Galloway.
Verna Cherry of Galloway shares photos of the 1962 nor’easter with her grandchildren, Juliet Cherry, 5, and Joey Hawn, 16, a student at Absegami High School
Tom Benner shot 8mm video during the March 1962 storm in Wildwood Crest. After the storm passed, he traveled through the borough and filmed the destruction of landmarks like the Crest fishing pier, the life guard station houses along Sunset Lake and motels along the beach. Benner also shows the destruction of homes in Cape May and West Wildwood.
I was 24 at the time of the storm, living in Atlantic City with my husband and daughter. We lived at the corner of Atlantic and Maine avenues in a big white apartment building in a middle section. My husband was a commercial fisherman. He was the captain, and he was supposed to go out the night before. The weather was fine at the time. Maybe it was a gut feeling or maybe he was just tired, but he said he was going to wait and go out in the morning. Thank God that he didn’t go out, because he would have been a goner.
There was debris everywhere, and so much had been destroyed.
I was 20 at the time of the storm and living in Pleasantville. I was a newlywed with my husband, George. We were married in January, and the storm was in March. We were living in Glendale Manor Apartments.
Steel Pier’s entrance way was washed out by the storm
The Migliaccio family lived in harm’s way when the water started rising on March 6, 1962 on Pleasure Avenue. They were across the street from the bay and what was then Chris’ and Hogate’s restaurants, at the foot of the Ninth Street bridge.
Hackney’s had waves wash out the bottom of the restaurant.
My sister, Debbie Smith, and I grew up in Margate on the 300 block of Argyle Avenue, between the ocean and the bay. Our maiden name was Levy.
I was 6 at the time and my sister was 9. We vividly remember waking up that day, and the ocean and the bay actually met. My sister remembers that when they met, it formed a big wave. The water luckily only came up to the second step of our porch.
I lived in VentnorHeights and remember the ’62 storm very well. I was 14 years old and lived with my parents, Harry and Virginia Bickel, grandparents and brother on North Suffolk Avenue in the house my father built. He was born and raised in Ventnor, so when he built his house, he built it higher than most other people did.
I was 5 years old and we lived on Quincy Avenue and the beach in Margate. I went to bed and it was dark and rainy. When we awoke, the ocean was coming down the block and the water was up to our front steps.
We tried to keep everything as normal as possible. My husband and I had friends over to play cards. They were interesting friends from the Jolly Roger – it was Johnny and Ramona Moore. The winds came up, and the lights were flicking on and off. As we were playing, we were concerned that the storm was getting really bad.
I was 6 years old with the measles; the curtains were pulled down in those days, so I was unable at first to look out the window. We lived in the VenicePark section of Atlantic City on Madison Avenue, two blocks from the bay. Well, not that day.
I woke up and pulled the blinds up to see the new day. I could not believe my eyes; water covered everything. Water was up to the first or second step of the entrance to our house. This meant the water level was somewhere in the 3- to 4-four foot range in the street.
I was 13, and it was my sister's 17th birthday. We did not go to school that day – I do not remember why, either the birthday or the storm. My mother was worried about flying debris because the winds were so high. We lived in an apartment on the 100 block of Tennessee Avenue in Atlantic City. My mother owned a store at Tennessee and the Boardwalk, under the Mayflower Hotel, across from Fralinger's.
In those days there was no insurance for floods, so we went to the store to tape up the plate-glass windows and take merchandise out of the basement. We were stocked up in anticipation of Easter, which was always a big day for the boardwalk merchants. The basement was at beach level with cinder block walls. The water came up fast and started pouring through the cinder blocks. After we saved what we could, we went upstairs to the store and found that we were trapped by the rising water.
We went next door to the Mayflower. They had an indoor pool on the second or third floor, and we rode out the storm sitting by the pool and looking out to the ocean. Debris from Steel Pier came floating by; I think it was the high-diving horse tank and the diving bell. Eventually they floated down the ocean and hit the Million Dollar Pier.
When we could, we went and played in the water to feel the “tingling.” What dummies we were – that was electricity!
After the storm I remember The Press had headlines that Long BeachIsland was virtually wiped out. There was a lot of damage in the inlet of Atlantic City too, including the apartment building on the boardwalk at Maine Avenue, where we used to live. It seems like the inlet never really recovered.