Homes are flooded in Seaside, N.J. (Tim Larsen / New Jersey Governor's…)
As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie surveyed the widespread damage Tuesday from the massive storm known as Sandy, 42-year-old Walter Patrickis of Belmar told him, “Governor, I lost everything.”
Christie was in Belmar, a beach community in northern New Jersey, as part of a 4 1/2 hour helicopter tour of the state’s coast, with the Associated Press providing coverage for all media.
From the air, Sandy’s punishment was clear. It was what Christie imagined last year when Hurricane Irene was bearing down on the coast and he famously told residents, "Get the hell off the beach.”
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Sandy has apparently trumped Irene. The governor saw homes underwater, smoldering fires in foundations where homes used to stand, and boats piled on top of one another like toys. The hardest-hit area appeared to be north of where Sandy made landfall, from Seaside to Belmar.
“I was just here walking this place this summer, and the fact most of it is gone is just incredible,” the governor told Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty.
The city is surrounded by water on three sides. All the pre-storm conference calls and warnings with Jersey Shore mayors helped cities prepare as best they could, Doherty told Christie.
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Huge swaths of the boardwalk washed away. A seaside trailer was jarred off its foundation and thousands of New Jersey residents were still without power, waiting for crews to assess the damage and begin repairs.
At a news conference later, Christie said the boardwalk in Seaside Heights was gone. So was the amusement park, he said.
"The rides where I took my kids this August before the Republican convention ... those rides are in the Atlantic Ocean... the roller coaster that they rode this summer."
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As he made his way south along the coast, Christie met with first-responders in Avalon. The barrier islands were still off-limits to residents. Schools will be reopened by county officials on a case-by-case basis.
Christie said he would evaluate opening up the barrier islands two or three times a day.
“The storm surge was just incredible,” the governor told local officials. “The river flooding that we got in Irene of the Raritan and the Passaic, we didn’t get any of that this time, but it was all storm surge. That’s what you’re seeing here.”
The governor is also considering an executive order to reschedule Halloween, joking he might set it for election day.
In the immediate future, however, workers are waiting for the water to recede and the weather to clear so they can start putting the Jersey Shore back together.
“Now we’ve got a big task ahead of us that we have to do together,” Christie said. “This is the kind of thing New Jerseyans are built for – we’re plenty tough and now we have a little more reason to be angry after this. Just what we need in New Jersey, a chance to be a little more angry.”
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