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Record Storm Leaves Residents Stranded and Island Devastated

The city hopes to allow Ocean City residents to return sometime on Wednesday.

Thousands of evacuated residents are waiting on Wednesday morning for word on when they will be able to return to their homes in the wake of the worst storm in Ocean City history.

Emergency officials issued a mandatory evacuation order effective 4 p.m Sunday (Oct. 28) as what was then a Category 1 hurricane bore down on the New Jersey coastline.

Ocean City felt the first effects of Hurricane Sandy on Sunday evening, but the massive storm reserved her full fury for the two high tides that fell on Monday (Oct. 29).

The storm arrived on an exceptionally high full-moon tide, and the untimely pairing led to record flooding.

A massive low-pressure system with hurricane-force winds extending 175 miles in either direction and tropical-force winds reaching 550 miles, Sandy made landfall in Atlantic City, eight miles north of Ocean City, at 8 p.m. Monday — with powerful northeast winds pushing waves and water over the barrier islands of the Jersey Shore.

By the time Sandy made landfall, the hurricane was characterized as a "post-tropical" system — merged with the winter low-pressure system moving down from Canada that led Sandy to take an unprecedented sharp turn toward New Jersey.

Tide-level readings from the gauge at the Bayside Center at Sixth Street and the bay showed a record-high 7.25 feet at 8 p.m. on Monday (Oct. 29).

The October 2012 storm topped the legendary events of Ocean City history:

  • The Dec. 11, 1992 storm was 7.2 feet
  • The 1944 hurricane was 6.65 feet
  • The morning high tide on Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, was 6.49 feet
  • The famous March 1962 nor'easter was 6.35 feet
  • Hurricane Gloria in 1985 was 5.75 feet

Monday's reading was from the new tide gauge installed on May 3, 2011, at the Bayside Center. It is based on 1988 datum and is measured from the level for an average mid-tide. The attached PDF (read the left column) shows historical data based on the same criteria.

While the record tide levels left Ocean City's downtown streets under three to four feet of water and allowed the ocean to meet the bay on the south end of the island.

Wind gusts up to 70.2 mph were recorded at 59th Street in Ocean City during the height of the storm.

At the same time, the region saw 6 to 12 inches of rain over the course of the storm (6.72 inches in Beesley's Point and 12 inches in Wildwood Crest).

The combination of wind, waves and water caused severe erosion to Ocean City beaches from north to south.

The dunes at Waverly Beach on the north end were knocked flat — just as they were in the recent November 2009 nor'easter. Geotubes installed as part of a recent dune restoration project were the only thing holding back the pounding surf from the exposed streets on the north end.

Dunes at the south end of Ocean City were also eaten by the ocean allowing waves to wash all the way to the bay. Streets in the 40s and 50s show sand from Central Avenue all the way back to West Avenue.

Even the healthiest dunes in the 20s and 30s were diminished by the storm.

Without a protective dune system, beachfront homes on Central Avenue at the south end saw some of the most severe damage — with decks in danger of collapsing, ground-level living spaces filled with water and sand and some doors and windows smashed.

Downtown businesses on Asbury Avenue saw unprecedented flooding — with two feet of salt water filling their shops. Many bayside homes saw similar flooding.

The storm downed trees and utility lines. It filled the streets with sand and debris. It also knocked out two sewerage treatment facilities (one was restored on Tuesday).

In a 1:30 p.m. press conference on Tuesday, Mayor Jay Gillian said the city was still not safe to allow evacuated residents to return. The city said in a 9 p.m. update, that more information will be released at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

Ocean City public schools remain closed on Wednesday. Trick-or-treating will be rescheduled.

"The city is aggressively taking every measure possible to ensure public safety once the restrictions on access are removed," officials said in the 9 p.m. update. "The city is hopeful that this will take place at some point on Wednesday."

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nelson amey IV October 31, 2012 at 11:48 AM
For what it is worth the USGS water data report for the station has the previous maximum water height at 6.61 NAVD 1988 on December 11, 1992 http://wdr.water.usgs.gov/wy2010/pdfs/01411320.2010.pdf
Kathy Balin October 31, 2012 at 11:55 AM
I hope the administration has been reading the comments on here and FB because we full time residents are not happy about being kept from our homes. Enough is enough.
Marty October 31, 2012 at 11:56 AM
There have been people complaining that the mayor and his team are living and sleeping in comfort while us residents are chewing our fingernails waiting for word. That is despicable. I know these men well, and it isn't hard to see the tired, dragged out looks on their faces. People, cut them some slack and let them do their job for Ocean City, Instead, draw together and this city will not only recover, but be stronger. God bless our first responders. Marty Mozzo PS Thanks Doug for keeping us informed.
Kristen Farrokhrooz October 31, 2012 at 12:16 PM
I agree Marty he is thinking I the residents Safety And making sure all large debri and sand is cleared from the streets so residents can get back to their homes.
Tayler Adams October 31, 2012 at 12:29 PM
These men and women are away from their families too. As desperate as I am to get home, I want it to be safe for my family and I. Give it a rest. Appreciate them and what they are doing
Bob Taylor October 31, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I feel totally blacked out. Channel 40 is doing more reporting about NY, Point Pleasant and New England than their own community. My store is outside that parking meter you have shown on your lead story, I'm not allowed in (even though somehow Arlene's got in, he was on the news last night). No input from either Mainstreet or RMA about conditions. Plenty from Atlantic City though. It lets you know how little you mean to the major and local news organizations. Shame on Channel 40. Thank you Patch, thank you FM 97.3 for keep up as informed as you were able.
marc shuster October 31, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Doug, I have been totally impressed with your coverage of this event and the aftermath. You are to be commended
Kevin D. October 31, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Doug, I want to meet you when I return to the Island personally thank you for the wonderful coverage during these most trying of times. You are to be commended for a job well done. Thank you.
Pat Donohoe October 31, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Any word (update) about when residents can return to Ocean City, N.J.?
elizabeth October 31, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Still waiting to hear updated info from Mayor's office planned for 10 a.m. . . .
mary October 31, 2012 at 03:30 PM
when can we get back to OC? 10:00 posting????
Nancy Clements October 31, 2012 at 03:37 PM
There is a tribe of islanders gathering ready for clean up. What can we expect ?
Nancy Clements October 31, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Enough already I'm giving this a all systems go. Driving from Philly while feeling labor pains of OC officials to decide what works best ..if this continues we should have a conference publicly 3pm causeway bridge Call Obama .. Something has got to pass on to us giving more information No news is not good for thousands
lydia freedman October 31, 2012 at 06:44 PM
Received word from 2nd floor neighbor that a friend drove to 29th & Central Ave looks good. Some minor wind damage to our property nothing really serious from what she could see. There seems to be electric power in that area hard to tell how many homes may not have power. She couldn't tell if garages flooded or not, looked dry. Overall she said things looked good in that part of Central Ave.
julie eddy November 02, 2012 at 03:46 AM
you act like you are the ONLY people affected by the storm. Duffer is worried about his freaking food, someone else is going to call Obama, get a grip! the whole coast from NJ to RI was devastated and first responders are flying in from California to Canada to help put things back together. Are you alive??? then you can rebuild ... concider yourself lucky, and what is this crap about people being abusive to the lineworkers trying to restore service?? SHAME ON YOU!!!

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