Fifteen-year-old Davine Reid just knew something bad was going to happen that night.
“I told my friend we’d better hurry up and get home. There only was a shallow wind, but the moon was so close to Earth, and it was a full moon. I’ve never seen the moon that close. I just had a feeling something was wrong.”
Reid was living with her parents on North New York Avenue in Atlantic City. She was walking home from Arctic Avenue with her friend at around 7:30 p.m. the night the ocean invaded the streets of Atlantic City in 1962 when she noticed the moon and got a sense that something out of the ordinary was about to happen.
“I often get feelings like that, and I definitely had one that night,” said Reid, who is now 65 and living in Pleasantville.
She wasn’t in her house more than 20 minutes when the water started coming up the street, she said. “I couldn’t believe it. We just barely made it into our houses.”
She said her father had a different experience that evening. He worked at the Governor Hotel on Virginia Avenue between the boardwalk and Pacific Avenue at the time and was walking home from his shift along Tennessee Avenue.
“He nearly drowned that night. He got pulled under the water right along the street near the Ginsburg Bakery,” Reid said. “You can still see the waterline on that building. They’ve tried to paint over it, but you can still see how high the water was if you look.”
She said her grandmother lived on Arctic Avenue, and the water rushed in so fast it knocked her door down.
The next day Atlantic City looked like a scene in Venice, Italy, Reid said.
“There were people floating down the street in dresser bureaus like boats,” she said. “We were stuck in our houses for a few days.”
She recalled feeling so relieved when the cavalry came in.
“The National Guard came by in tanks and threw bread and food to us because we couldn’t get out to the stores. It was such a great feeling to see them coming.”
The cleanup effort took quite a while.
“We didn’t have shop vacs to suck up all of the water. We had to sweep it out of the house and hang our carpets out on the line and wait for them to dry,” Reid said.
She said she remembers feeling very fearful that night – a sense she has held on to all these years. That storm was the reason she was hesitant to move back to the area after living in Georgia.
“It’s a fear that I still have. I always ask for a second-floor apartment. I would never get a basement or first-floor one or a low-lying house. I’ve seen what can happen,” Reid said, referring to the deaths caused by the storm.
“They have dunes now, which we didn’t have back then. It was just flat,” she said. “But if the water wants to come up, it’s going to come up. There’s nothing we can do to stop it.”
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