Shore towns mop up Irene aftermath

Officials say effects of hurricane not as severe as feared

Kenny Walter, Nicole Antonucci and Mike Davis

A tornado in Long Branch, severe flooding in Ocean Township and mandatory evacuations in Monmouth Beach were among the impacts as Hurricane Irene roared through eastern Monmouth towns on Aug. 27-28.

An offshoot of the hurricane, a small tornado ripped a section of the roof from the West End Apartments complex in Long Branch, Long Branch Business Administrator Howard Woolley Jr. confirmed on Monday.

“That was actually a tornado about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning,” he said. “I am told by the weather geniuses that these hurricanes spawn tornadic activity.

The tornado touched down on Howland Avenue and snapped a telephone pole on the corner of Ocean Boulevard, he said.

The twister then took off a section of the roof over four apartments at the complex, which is located on 519 Ocean Blvd.

Before dissipating, the twister headed east and took the siding off numerous buildings.

Woolley said that there was widespread property damage throughout the city.

“Obviously there was some loss of property, there were a lot of trees down, a lot of wires down,” he said. “There are sections of the city still without power, there are traffic lights out, hotels out, and West End businesses are still out.”

Long Branch Director of Public Works Fred Migliaccio said there was severe damage to portions of the city’s beaches from the storm.

“We had some moderate to severe damage on the beachfront,” he said. “We lost some of our beach entrance structures like stairs and platforms onto the beach.

“We are in the process of performing those repairs,” he said Monday. “The beaches are being cleaned and raked, and within an hour should be all clean.”

He said that most of the beaches were open on Monday, with some remaining closed because of damage to the beach access stairways.

All of the trees down throughout the city were picked up, he said, and all but two traffic lights were operational.

He also said that power outages scattered throughout the city could last for days.

Although Long Branch may have seen more damage than some of its neighboring towns, Woolley said it fared better than expected.

“We fared pretty well, given what we had anticipated,” he said. “It’s a process cleaning up from this thing, but we did a lot better than we thought we would.

“I’m not saying that it wasn’t severe, but it was better than we thought it would be,” he added. “We are well pleased with the fact that no one was hurt or killed, and we got the people in the Long Branch area north of Atlantic Avenue to shelters.”

According to Woolley, more than 400 rode out the storm at a shelter at the Long Branch Middle School.

Monmouth Beach was under its first-ever mandatory evacuation order, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Lt. Dennis Cahill said on Friday, Aug. 26, discussing preparations for the approaching hurricane. Residents were advised to take shelter inland, with family or friends or to seek shelter at one of the county shelters in Holmdel or Wall Township.

On Monday, Cahill said the hurricane caused significant damage to parts of the borough, but the effects of Irene were far below expectations.

“Damages are far less than we ever expected,” Cahill said.

He said the Monmouth Beach Bathing Pavilion sustained significant damage to the roof of the older portion of the pavilion.

Additionally, Cahill said ocean access points, ramps and fencing were lost in the storm.

Despite the damage to the borough property, he said there was minimal residential damage despite significant flooding in other parts of the town.

“I would categorize the flooding as severe. [It was] not as bad as the levels we saw in the December 11, 1992, storm. That’s our modern benchmark. They didn’t reach that.”

In Ocean Township, Poplar Village, a senior affordable housing complex already heavily damaged by heavy rains, was inundated by the hurricane, and all residents were evacuated from the 93-unit complex over the weekend.

According to Police Chief Antonio Amodio, the hurricane caused significant flooding throughout the township. Residents were evacuated on a section of Branch Avenue, and voluntary evacuations were suggested on Lake and Westlake avenues.

A reception area for residents who needed shelter was set up at the courthouse on Monmouth Road, from which they would be taken to a county shelter. Amodio said power outages continued Monday in sections of Oakhurst, West Allenhurst and Wanamassa.

West Long Branch Superintendent of Public Works Earl Reed said that there was minimal damage in the borough, with the worst being small fallen branches and trees.

He also said that there was minimal flooding to Norwood and Beechwood avenues.

On its website, Jersey Central Power & Light, which provides power for Monmouth County, states that as of Monday there were 143,000 Monmouth County residents who still had power outages.

During the hurricane, Holmdel, Wall Township and Colts Neck high schools served as Red Cross shelters for Monmouth County residents evacuated from their homes.

“We open [the shelters] up at the behest of the Office of Emergency Management of the county,” said Gary Olivero, public affairs officer for the Jersey Coast Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“Once that’s given to us, our primary responsibility is providing basic shelter needs — toiletries, cots, blankets.

“Depending on the extension — if it’s a one-day thing versus a long-term thing — then we set up food services and supplies and we take care of that.”

According to the American Red Cross, more than 4,300 New Jerseyans sought shelter at one of its shelters during the hurricane. The Red Cross had 12 shelters open at locations in New Jersey:

For pets displaced by Irene, Laurie Garrison, executive director for the Monmouth County SPCA in Eatontown, said shelters set up in Wall Township, Colts Neck and Holmdel were pet-friendly.

A shelter at the Juvenile Detention Center in Freehold was designated for pets only.

The Associated Humane Society and the MCSPCA were only open for strays and emergencies.

“We wanted people to take care of their own pets,” Garrison said.

Over 1.000 animals were sheltered throughout the storm, she said.