By Lauren Wanko
A steady, nearly freezing rain pounded Shark River this morning. The roar of the wind eerily echoes over the water and through the typically quiet Monmouth County neighborhood. Neptune Township was hit hard by Sandy. A mangled dock is just one of the remnants of her fury. Now the shore town is bracing yet again.
“You don’t feel like you’re getting ahead. You feel like we’ve made such great progress over the last 100 days and just to have this happen again it’s almost like the snow that came right after Sandy,” said Office of Emergency Management Neptune Director Michael J. Bascom. “We’ve done all this work to get the sand back on the beach. To strain it, to start to build dunes again and then here’s another storm to wipe it away but that explains why it’s so important to recover quickly.”
Thirty-eight public works vehicles are on stand-by along with 9,000 gallons of calcium chloride, a stockpile of salt and a computerized map system to assist in keeping roads clear.
“As the storm progresses we have a new system to monitor where and how we plow different streets,” said Neptune Mayor Eric Houghtaling. “We’re ready.”
But are residents ready? Residents directly impacted by Sandy’s wrath. John’s Cracker Barrell flooded four and a half feet during the October storm. It reopened this week to a steady stream of regulars looking for a warm breakfast sandwich and supplies for the storm.
“We actually love having storms expect for Hurricane Sandy. Actually this is a great place where everybody comes to when there is a storm,” said owner Evangelia Scheidt. “Families walk down here, they get their hot chocolate, they need their milk, the bread, breakfast.”
John’s Cracker Barrell is across the street from the river. After Sandy’s 13-foot tidal surge, coastal flooding is a major concern.
“At this point am I little nervous? Absolutely and I have to be because I don’t know what this will bring and what kind of flooding,” Scheidt said.
Electrician Ed McAtee is taking this storm seriously.
“You know any sustained northeast wind in this area during a new moon, full moon or anything like that potentially could be bad,” he said.
Others don’t expect the nor’easter to pack a powerful punch.
“If we get any high tide, it might come up a little over the street,” said Neptune Township resident Ron Toth.
This winter storm brings a triple threat of snow, flooding and high winds.
“The wind is certainly a concern because we have a lot of homes that remain boarded up, it was over, close to 200 homes that remain uninhabitable,” said Bascom.
And what about power outages? This community was in the dark for more than 10 days after Sandy.
“I believe that JCP&L, our local supplier, has improved their communications. The things we’re seeing from them now are much better, in terms of how they’re going to handle the outages, how they’re preparing and stationing for them,” said Neptune Committeeman Randy Bishop.
The last things folks in Monmouth County want to think about is a loss of power tonight. As the day progressed, the winds have picked up substantially and now we’re just being pounded by a steady stream of sleet. The ocean waves are picking up, reminiscent of the storm Sandy, something folks don’t want to think about this evening. They’re just hoping for the best.