Tales from Ocean City: Tom Ang

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Tom and Teresa Ang awoke to the sound of a car horn blaring early on the morning of March 6, 1962.

“The car was under water,” Tom Ang said. “The horn shorted. We got out of bed, and the house was surrounded by water.”

Ang spent more than 38 years serving Ocean City as a firefighter. A 15-year veteran at the time, he said he’ll never forget the ’62 storm.

“There was one heck of a lot of damage; the town was a mess,” he said. “I was a bit younger then, of course and I didn’t get as nervous. We had four really big high tides, the last eased a bit. I never imagined that we could have water that high.

“We did what we had to do, did everything we could possibly do,” he said. “No one died in Ocean City, but an awful lot of people were flooded out of their homes. The ocean met the bay, the bridges were closed. The water just kept coming and coming and it never went out. The next high tide came in and there was nowhere for the water to go.”

It all began at his north end home.

“I knew I had to get to the firehouse, but I couldn’t get out,” he said. “So they sent a truck and brought my boots to me so I could get through the water. I left the house and didn’t return for five days. I don’t think I even took my boots off.”

Ang worked out of the Sixth Street firehouse at the time, but a fire next door to the firehouse necessitated that the firefighters work out of City Hall.

“We were really caught off guard with that storm,” he said. “We had no idea how bad this storm was going to get. I was in charge of eight guys. I had just been made captain six months before. I learned a lot from that storm. It was really something.

“The calls came in. We had a list, we just kept going, from one call to the next, and along the way we did whatever we could to help people. The Rescue Squad couldn’t get anywhere, we had all kinds of calls coming in.”

A fire in the 4300 block of Central Avenue frustrates Ang just thinking about it 50 years later.

“There were some published reports that said we couldn’t get there,” he said.

“The water main broke, we got there to fight the fire, three duplexes all in a row, all the same, burned,” he said. “We got there before the second house caught on fire. All the water mains broke. We hooked up a hose, but nothing came out.”

Ang said it was one disaster after another. Electric and gas service were cut off to avoid explosions.

“We called Scott Burman, the head of the civil defense, and told him to cut the electric off,” he said. “The gas was turned off. The only gas line we had then and the only gas line we have even today comes from Strathmere.”

Water was so deep in several areas that the fire trucks could not get through.

“We had a National Guard truck,” he said. “At 41st Street and Asbury Avenue the water washed the street out. We couldn’t see that the street was washed out. The truck went under water.

“Houses were floating, it was a real mess,” he said. “The water was so deep that we had trouble getting hoses hooked up, the hydrants were under water, and let me tell you, that water was cold.”

“Every fire we attempted to fight was hampered by something,” he said. “Either the hoses broke lose or the water wouldn’t run because we had no pressure. The houses were all 8 feet apart – if one caught fire you had to worry about the next house and the next house. We had over 200 calls as I remember.”

The water came within inches of his home. Teresa Ang took her two boys, Tom, who passed away last year, and Steve, a captain on the Ocean City Police Department, out of danger.

“My brother-in-law drove Teresa and the boys to Somers Point and then to Pleasantville,” he said. “I had one less worry with my family safe. We were lucky. Our house was not destroyed. I built the house in 1959 so it was pretty new, we were fortunate we didn’t lose it.”

Ang passed the civil service test, scoring the highest mark and started serving as a firefighter on July 1, 1946.

“I was at the right place at the right time,” he said. “Someone retired and I got the job.

“My father was a fire fighter, he started in 1913 and they had horses,” he said.

 


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