Mainland areas suffered high wind, flooding damage

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EGG HARBOR CITY – Local historian Majorie Garwood remembers how her father, George Gries, rode her around as he looked for news in the communities surrounding Egg Harbor City in the early 1960s.

Gries, who was an Atlantic County freeholder and editor of the city’s weekly newspaper, often shared his journeys with Garwood as they visited areas such as Green Bank, Lower Bank, Sweetwater, Batsto and the western portions of Galloway.

But the trips she took in the days after the Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 were different from any other.

“I was so scared of what I might see when we went into Atlantic City that I can’t remember any of it,” she said. “I was frantic.”

Though the three-day coastal storm March 6-8 is known for the flooding conditions it caused along the immediate coast, mainlanders also suffered damage, and Gries reported and captured it on the pages of The News.

This week Garwood shared copies of the papers her father had saved that contained articles written in the days following the infamous storm.

The papers not only captured the horror of the storm experienced by Mainland residents, but proved to be a valuable snapshot of a time when Atlantic County lifestyles were different than they are today.

The March 8 issue of the News reported that a large plate-glass window at Ranere Chevrolet Sales on the White Horse Pike was blown in by high winds during the storm.

“I remember the constant howling winds,” Garwood said.

Across the city, numerous television aerials fell, and some trees and branches crashed to the ground, all victims of strong winds.

“That was the damage you saw around Egg Harbor City,” Garwood recalled. “There were a lot of trees and branches down. People lost power.”

Printed accounts say residents compared the damage caused by the 1962 storm to conditions experienced 18 years earlier when the Hurricane of 1944 roared up the coast.

In the Motts Creek section of Galloway Township, two invalid women were saved from their marooned cottage after gale-force winds ripped off a side of the building, according to reports from Edwin Fenton, police chief at the time. Rescuers waded through shoulder-high water until Wilmer Leeds brought a boat to the scene and the women were taken to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point.

Galloway police officers Roy Heintz, Bill Mong and Jack Akeret joined township Mayor Charles Klein in helping with the rescue operation, the paper said.

“These weren’t meant to be year-round homes,” Garwood noted. “Many were just fishing shacks.”

Many of the structures were severely damaged by the storm surge, she said.

Nearby, the front of the Motts Creek Marina Store was washed away by the storm.

The Oyster Creek Inn at Leeds Point suffered great damage as well. The damage was so intense that owner Robert Kuppel cut short a vacation trip to Florida to come back and take charge, the newspaper said.

Oyster Creek Inn’s walk-in icebox was destroyed by rising floodwaters, the paper reported.

Both the Green Bank and Lower Bank bridges were closed, forcing Leek Boat Plant workers to travel 15-plus miles through Batsto and into Egg Harbor City to get home.

An overflowing Egg Harbor River flooded Somers Point Road in Mays Landing. Water backed up into the Wheaton Glass Plant at the Lenape Lake dam.

Also, 2.5 miles of the Atlantic City Railway Line between Absecon and Atlantic City was washed out, the paper reported. An army of 125 men worked to restore service in the week following the accident.

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