A week after a massive coastal storm left historical flooding, life in Ocean City will begin an attempt at normalcy on Monday.
Ocean City students will return to classes on Monday morning (Nov. 5), and a postponed Halloween trick-or-treating celebration is scheduled for Monday evening. Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the presidential election.
Throughout the weekend, the community rallied to help themselves and others dig out from the effects of the storm and all the problems it left behind.
A week earlier (on Oct. 29), the marriage of Hurricane Sandy and another massive winter storm system made a near-direct hit on Ocean City on a full-moon tide. Tide levels were higher than any other ever recorded on the island.
Ocean City was spared the devastation that many shore communities in central and northern New Jersey saw, but the island saw widespread flood damage to homes, businesses, cars and city streets. On Saturday, with a mandatory evacuation order lifted, the cleanup and relief effort began in earnest.
A tractor-trailer from the World Compassion Network based in Warsaw, Ind., pulled up to the Ocean City Tabernacle in the morning. Partnering with the Coastal Christian Church, the Network's volunteers set up a base of operations at the Tabernacle to distribute relief supplies, including food, water and cleaning supplies.
Meanwhile, volunteers from the Ocean City Baptist Church and six other churches from the region sent out teams to help residents clean up. The relocated Ocean City Ecumenical Council Food Cupboard began to provide food supplies. And meals were also served at the Ocean City Senior Center.
A collective effort to coordinate volunteer efforts continues to take shape. OCNJ CARE has created a Facebook page and website, and will release more information on how people can help at a news conference on Monday.
In a blog post submitted Saturday evening, Joellen Gillon thanked volunteers from the Ocean City Baptist Church and summed up the feelings of the many who received help.
"They worked tirelessly and with much grace," Gillon writes. "Never forget that community spirit and friendship still exists, and we will pay this kindness forward."
While volunteers fanned out across the island, residents and property owners went about the business of hauling water-damaged debris to curbs, digging out from under piles of sand, fiing insurance claims and dealing with the aftermath of the storm. On the first weekend of November, the streets saw almost summer-like activity.
Outside contractors continued the work of removing a thick layer of sand from streets on the north and south ends of the island and sifting it before returning it to the beach.
At the same time, owners were moving sand from their properties to the streeets.
"Our team members have worked long and hard in the days leading up to, during and after the storm," Mayor Jay Gillian said in a Friday message to the community. "That will continue in the days ahead until our beloved community is fully recovered. We have brought in an unprecedented amount of equipment and personnel to remove debris, trash, and other storm related materials. That work will continue seven days a week for as long as it takes."
"The damage to public and private property is disheartening," Gillian said. "But the most important thing is the people of our community."
"Our business community has suffered great losses, especially our downtown merchants," he said. "They’ll be back and open for business soon and it will be more important than ever to shop and dine locally."
In other updates from the city and schools:
- Travel restrictions have been lifted for access into Cape May County barrier islands including Ocean City.
- The Route 52 causeway (Ninth Street Bridge), 34th Street Bridge are open for access onto the island. The Longport Bridge was open inbound only with no tolls for some period Saturday but was blocked by work crews at oher times. Outbound is still closed at this time.
- Halloween in Ocean City will be held on Monday, Nov. 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The city asks that parents accompany their children, use flashlights and extreme caution based on the storm debris conditions in the areas they are trick-or-treating.
- A mandatory driving curfew within Ocean City is still in effect from 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. due to road conditions and power outages. The curfew does not limit access onto the island, however, the city asks that you please use caution as you make your way to your home. A number of traffic signals are not functioning and many roadways are covered with sand and storm debris.
- The city is continuing damage assessment and cleanup of the entire Island. We ask that the general public please refrain from travel into Ocean City to allow the city and property owners to continue their cleanup efforts.
- Please stay out of areas on the island that have heavy equipment, contractors and critical assessment personnel. This is for your own safety and to help expedite the recovery efforts.
- Residents and homeowners are encouraged to immediately begin the disaster application process by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
- Hot meals will be served for those in need at the Ocean City Community Center Senior Center (1735 Simpson Avenue) on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. Volunteers for this effort and donations of hot meals are welcome beginning at 8 a.m. Donations of non-perishable food, toiletries and cleaning supplies may be dropped off at the Ocean City Civic Center, 6th & Boardwalk on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Demand for assistance from the local Food Cupboard is expected to be at an all-time high.
- An organization has been established for the Ocean City community called the OCNJ C.A.R.E Project, Cleanup and Recovery Effort. This organization will direct volunteers and donations for food, shelter and clothing within the Ocean City Community. More information can be found on facebook at www.facebook.com/ocnjcare.
- Trash, Recycling and Storm Debris may be put out at your regular pick up area. The City is continuing to sweep the island and remove trash and debris until a schedule is determined. The Shelter Road Recycling Center has extended hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice. Additionally, the city has set up dumpsters throughout the island. Please click HERE for a list of dumpster locations.
- Atlantic City Electric anticipates that power will be restored in all areas of Ocean City by midnight on Sunday, Nov 4.
- Ocean City Schools will reopen on Monday, November 5.