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ATLANTIC COUNTY: Residents along bay in Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point urged to leave

ATLANTIC COUNTY: Residents along bay in Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point urged to leave

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Emergency management officials in Northfield, Linwood and Somers Point are urging residents in the back bay and low-lying areas to leave the area if possible.

“At 8 a.m. this morning, Bay Avenue was entirely under water,” said Somers Point OEM deputy coordinator Rob Cozen.

The storm drains in the area had reach their maximum capacity at that point, he said.

“I can’t stress enough that if you haven’t already evacuated yet, you should hunker down and stay home,” Cozen said.

There was a window of opportunity to escape while the water receded during the day, and Cozen urged residents of low-lying areas to evacuate while they could.

“Everyone is thinking this is not going to be a big deal,” said Chief Robert James, Northfield and Linwood police departments.

“We have a population of over-complacent people” because of over dramatization during Irene, Cozen said.

In Northfield and Linwood, the day began with checking on registered seniors and those with special needs, James said.

“The second thing to do is get the message out that those in the low lying areas of Northfield and Linwood need to relocate for at least two days while this (storm) is in progress,” James said.

A 50-foot section of the Atlantic City Boardwalk was dislodged by wind and rain that continue to intensify as Hurricane Sandy approaches the resort.

The wood broke off from an area of the walkway along the Absecon Inlet that already was sagging and in such bad shape that city officials blocked access to it.

At the northeast tip of the island, the Inlet gets the most intense weather than anywhere else in Atlantic City. The Boardwalk there has been in need of repairs for years. Within the past couple months, however, officials came closer than ever to taking action: a $10 million grant has been secured to tear down and rebuild the structure and supporting seawall.

Atlantic City is relocating people from its shelters to get them of the path of the Hurricane Sandy.

Those 135 or so residents will be taken to the shelter set up in Pleasantville, according to a statement from the city Office of Emergency Management.

This morning's high tide already caused flooding so deep that city ambulances could not respond to calls, prompting firefighters to respond to medical emergencies on top of a couple minor fires and one significant blaze on Aberdeen Place that broke out within the last hour.

Information on the fire was not immediately available.

Egg Harbor Township has issued a mandatory evacuation of West Atlantic City, effective immediately, as concerns of what this evening's high tide will do to the low-lying area.

Meanwhile, in Brigantine, police  are urging anyone left on the island should leave immediately.

“We can’t stress it anymore, please don’t take any chances,” the statement said. “Just don’t think of yourself. Think of the Police and Fire Emergency Personal that have been working day and night to protect and help the residents. Conditions are deteriorating as the day goes on. The window is closing as time goes on.”

In Egg Harbor Township, the area along Bay Avenue has been protected by a dune and gabion system that brought water protection up to 9 feet, but that was breached this morning.

Police warn that the water will be several feet higher during tonight's high tide. All bay communities in the township also are under mandatory evacuation, including those on Longport Boulevard.

The water in some areas is receding slightly as this morning's tide goes out, according to reports on Twitter and Facebook.

That was the case in Atlantic City, where floodwaters are starting to recede as the tide goes out, allowing what likely will be the last chance for people to leave before Hurricane Sandy wallops the resort tonight.

This morning's high tide and heavy rain caused flooding at least two feet deep throughout most of Gardner's Basin and the South Inlet as well as areas within two or three blocks of the bay and most street ends at the ocean citywide.

Officials have said they will provide an update on their plans during a press briefing scheduled to start at noon.

Margate was also preparing a shelter of last resort for residents who didn’t evacuate, in their case at the Jewish Community Center on Jerome Avenue.

In addition, Margate Mayor Mike Becker said, “Some of the people that stayed are starting to need service.”

Becker has not been to the beach side yet, but said “I understand waves are breaking over the bulkheads. There’s going to be serious erosion.”

Elsewhere, flooding is “all over the place,” Becker said. “A half an hour ago, water was six inches from my front door. The street here is wall-to-wall water. But my brother-in-law is at Colmar Circle (about a block from the JCC) and he’s got absolutely nothing. … In the past we’ve been lucky. Let’s see if we can get through tonight.”

“It’s very bad,” said Ventnor OEM coordinator William Melfi. “This may be our Katrina. Let’s put it that way. …I was in New Jersey Urban Search and Rescue, and we went to Katrina (impact zones) for two weeks. We went block by clock, house by house, searching for people. I know what to do. I’m not going to be happy about doing it here because people didn’t want to leave.”

During high tide Monday morning, “about 90 percent of Ventnor was under water,” Melfisaid. “In most places, it was greater than two feet. The public works complex had two feet of water outside the door and six inches of water inside the building.”

It was receding by early afternoon, and Melfi said it could be the last opportunity to leave.

“Too many people stayed,” he said. “Now they’re calling and they want to leave. I told them, ‘If you see black on the street, go down Atlantic Avenue to the Expressway, and that’s your way out.”

The shelter of last resort is St. James School at Portland and Atlantic, the highest point in the city. After that, the plans are being put in place for a block-by-block search once the storm has passed, “so we can send them to a staging area and get them out.”

Ocean waves are crashing up against the dunes in Atlantic City and floodwaters as deep as two and a half feet have washed out streets throughout the resort this morning, about 12 hours ahead of Hurricane Sandy's landfall.

Mayor Lorenzo Langford said previously that flooding deeper than 3 feet would disable most emergency response vehicles and prevent workers from aiding. That appears imminent.

Forecasts on Sunday predicted a storm dangerous enough to prompt the second mandatory evacuation of Absecon Island in history and the third shutdown of casino operations.

People were last ordered out of town during Hurricane Irene in August 2011.

That storm was not as severe as expected, though, and the underwhelming outcome has caused some people to disregard warnings against staying in town.

Lights remained on in homes throughout the resort last night.

And this morning, 24-year-old Mohsin Shah cited Irene's outcome as the reason he decided to stay in his home in the Lower Chelsea section of the resort.

"I have enough food, water, batteries - an extra car battery," Shah said as he eyed the knee-deep water flooding his street. "But it's going to be the same thing as last time. Nothing is going to happen."

Gov. Chris Christie, Atlantic City Public Safety Director Will Glass and other officials have repeatedly warned against such complacency.

It could, they've said, prove deadly.

Atlantic County Public Information Officer Linda Gilmore said there were no major incidents overnight Sunday as people adhered to the travel restriction and the curfew on the barrier islands.

The shelters at Pleasantville High School and Pleasantville Middle School on Mill Road have about 250 people and are operating at half capacity, Gilmore said. Anyone who still needs to evacuate are being sent to those two shelters, she said. Pets are not permitted at those shelters.

The shelter at Buena Regional Middle School on Weymouth Road is at full capacity with 150 people and 14 pets, she said. The shelter at St. Augustine Prep on Cedar Road in Buena Vista is for people with medical needs only and has 50 people and two pets, Gilmore said.

A shelter at Buena Regional High School on Weymouth Road will be used if needed, she said.

Gilmore again advised residents not to drive onto the roads, which already has high water on areas that typically flood. She noted the Black Horse Pike in West Atlantic City and the White Horse Pike in Absecon may shut down soon.

“With the high water levels combined with the wet leaves on the road (it is dangerous),” she said. “I can’t imagine what it will be like in a few hours (with high tide).”


In Longport, “the ocean has met the bay in the entire city,” said Mayor Nick Russo of the morning’s high tide. “We’re trying to clean up and get the roads passable from the heavy lumber there.”

The police communication system is down, and responders could not get their vehicles to calls, Russo said. So when smoke was reported at the Seaview condos, firefighters had to put their equipment on a five-ton private truck and evacuated six people by putting a ladder up to the back of a dump truck.


In Brigantine, things are deteriorating fast. Police Lt. Jim Bennett said that at least 40 to 50 percent of the population of more than 9,000 were still there as of Sunday night, despite the mandatory evacuation – and many may well regret that decision.

“I hope a lot of got out last night and this morning when they got the chance,” Bennett said. Now, “We’re opening up a shelter of last resort … Only one shelter, the Brigantine Community Center on 42nd Street. There will be very little in the way of provisions – no sleeping arrangements, no cots. None of that stuff. They’re going to have to bring their own sleeping bags and pillows. And there’s little in food resources.”

Already, he said, flooding is “pretty significant.”

“We’ve had a complete breach of the seawall at the north end,” Bennett said. “The north end is underwater, to the point where it’s impossible to get through in my Suburban, and that gets three feet. A local business owner has an Army Deuce and a Half, and he’s going to be assisting us.”


Away from the shore, wind-whipped rain intensified by 10 a.m. in some of Atlantic County’s mainland communities. Treetops swayed ominously as wind gusts became stronger in Galloway and Egg Harbor townships.

Puddles began to form on parts of the Tilton Road corridor, a key route that stretches from Galloway Township to Northfield and is a gateway to the Downbeach communities of Absecon Island.

Although conditions became more treacherous, local roads were hardly empty. Motorists were out on Tilton and Delilah roads, passing through the traffic circle that serves Atlantic City International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center.


The morning's light rain was a relief for EHT resident Doris Ebert, who was unable to get last-minute supplies Sunday.

She stooped by the Wawa on the Airport Circle for milk and said she isn't worried about Sandy.

"I used to live in Atlantic city a block  from the Boardwalk," she said. "If you can survive living there you can survive anything."

Wawa Manager Greg Brown said they plan to stay open and received a shipment of food and supplies last night. They also have generators on stand by.

"The biggest problem is if we lose power," he said.


The Sunoco at the Airport Circle will stay open during the storm. They have plenty of gas and food and attendant Irfan Sabier said he has faith they will be OK.

"We believe in God. That's why we're here," he said. "If we didn't we'd be home."

Manager Nil Drekh said he wanted to stay open and help people. They are prepared to stay through the storm if necessary.

"If we have people we will stay," he said.


Villas resident Patty Paolucci walked her two dogs Lexy and Teddy this morning. Paolucci evacuated to Somers Point, but the dogs are unfamiliar with her friend's home and are having difficulty.

Paolucci said she is concerned about keeping her dogs cooped up for a few days. 


Diamond Furniture General manager Debbie Gallovich is using the hurricane to drum up business. The store, which opened today, has 'hurricane sale' written on the plywood boarding up the front entrance. Gallovich said the store was open until 9 p.m. Sunday and she had customers, so she planned to open today.

She came early to remove signs, banners and Halloween decorations _ the type of things that blew away during last year's Irene storm.

"They were gone," she said.


A Jeep broke down in high water at Bay Avenue and Somers Point - Longport Boulevard. Somers Point police are standing by in a patrol car until they get a vehicle to tow it. The officers said it's been slow but "a lot of gawkers" have been coming by.


Somers Point resident Bryan Gilis wanted to check out his old neighborhood on city road 559 near the bay and found a white SUV nearly submerged in the water.

"It's crazy," said the city resident who moved after the Irene storm.


Seavile resident Tracey Kluska had to pass through the road to get to Jennings' Gateway Marina and secure his uncle's boat. He borrowed a neighbor's waterproof overalls so he could walk through the chest high water.

Unfortunately the overalls had holes in them.

"I'm drenched," Kluska said.


Somers Point residents Shannon Belden and her mom Mary Crean were two of many onlookers to Bay Avenue in the city to look at the flooded road.

"You can't see Ocean City," Shannon said. "It doesn't exist anymore."

The two said they thought the worst of the storm would be in the morning and were glad they could check it out.

But Crean said she is concerned about the storm later tonight.

"It's scarier in the evening," she said. "You can't see. You can only hear."



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