Strathmere was spared worst of Hurricane Sandy

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STRATHMERE – The storm surge and flood waters that Hurricane Sandy brought ashore flooded more than 150 homes here, and breached dune lines in Strathmere’s north end and on Whale Beach, but the damage could have been so much worse.

Mayor Richard Palombo, who assessed the damage with township Office of Emergency Management (OEM) personnel Monday and again later this week, said 30 to 40 miles made all the difference in the world for Upper Township’s small shore community.
“If the storm had hit 30 to 40 miles to the south, we would have been Long Beach Island,” said Palombo, referring to the extensive damage that community suffered. “That was all the difference between truly catastrophic damage and what we saw.”
Palombo said officials made their way to Strathmere on Monday, first clearing away large stones that waves had knocked onto Ocean Drive between Ocean City and Strathmere. An initial assessment found more than 150 homes in Strathmere had suffered flood damage, but no structural damage, said Palombo.
“There was a significant amount of water,” he said. “In some homes, there was five feet of water during the height of the storm.”
Waves breached the dune line on the north end of Strathmere, but the most extensive breach was in Whale Beach, said Palombo. The tide left behind three to four feet of sand on Ocean Drive there, blocking travel between Strathmere and Sea Isle City.
Palombo said the township tried to clear the roadway but later tides brought the sand back.
“It’s going to take several more days to get that section open,” said Palombo. “Right now we’re asking Strathmere residents to enter through Ocean City because they cannot get to Strathmere from Sea Isle City.”
Palombo said most of the beach in Strathmere held up surprisingly well.
“Even where the dunes were breached in Whale Beach, there is still sand,” he said. “The sand doesn’t have the same height it did, but there is still a fairly wide section of beach. We had aerial photos taken before the storm so we will assess the damage with Dr. Stuart Farrell (of Stockton College) and go from there.
“The beach and the dunes did there job,” Palombo added. “It prevented real structural damage in Strathmere.”
Upper Township received more than eight inches of rain, and tidal flooding resulted in extremely high levels for the Tuckahoe River and wetlands. Parts of Upper Township lost power during the storm, and some homes were still without power on Thursday.
Seaville lost power Monday afternoon after a National Guard truck collided with a car and turned over, snapping a power pole. Two National Guardsmen were in the truck at the time. Injuries were minor.
Palombo lauded the efforts of township firefighters, rescue squad members and OEM officials.
“They did yeoman’s work,” he said. “They worked themselves to the bone.”
Palombo said rescue squad members were on hand at the Upper Township Middle School, which sheltered 120 evacuees from Ocean City and Strathmere. They tended to a number of people with medical needs, he said.
Others cooked meals for the people at the school, said Palombo.
The township will place dumpsters in Strathmere to assist with cleanup. Public works employees will also be on hand to help residents there clear debris, said Palombo.

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