By Lauren Wanko
It’s another sign of recovery along the Jersey Shore as a giant claw dives into Shark River, reemerging with silt left behind by the superstorm. We first reported on Shark River Hills in November.
“Sandy was only in this area for a very short time, and the amount of damage it did is just astronomical,” said Neptune Township Mayor Eric Houghtaling.
The municipal marina was hit hard. The storm wiped out two marina buildings and nearly 50 boats were tossed throughout town. Now crews are working to get this marina up and running by Memorial Day, along with the parks Sandy ripped to pieces.
“It shows that the Hills are coming back, from the parks being redone to the marina being rebuilt, it shows that Shark River Hills is back,” Harbor Master Ed Finlay said.
Homeowners are also rebuilding. Nearly 10 residents already elevated their houses.
“The township has adopted the 500-year base flood elevation, which is currently listed by FEMA at 12 feet,” said Neptune Township Business Administrator Vito Gadaleta.
Michelle Erbe opted not to raise her home, even though she lost her entire first floor to Sandy. She just moved back in February.
“It’s such a great feeling to be home. The sad thing about it is there’s so many people that still aren’t home,” Erbe said.
Today Erbe noticed a “for sale” sign on her neighbor’s lawn. Local officials say a couple dozen storm damaged-homes are now on the market.
“It’s very hard to see what has happened to their homes, to actually have to pick up and leave and decide whether they’re gonna come back or not,” Houghtaling said.
In the days and weeks following the storm, mountains of debris grew on the streets as residents dumped everything from their homes.
Today the streets are clear. That’s after crews removed more than 63,000 cubic yards of debris from this riverside community. The price tag? An estimated $3.5 million.
And after Sandy heavily damaged the Shark River Beach and Yacht Club, it was bulldozed in April. Reconstruction is at a standstill.
“Over 6 months later we’re still waiting for insurance and we have not received any insurance at all on the building. They’re helping out a little bit with the docks, but we’ve got a long way to go. We’re not sure what to do next here,” said Club Board President John Dempsey.
Amid the destruction, residents like Erbe found comfort in helping others. She launched an apparel line and so far she’s raised more than $15,000 for the riverside community.
“I just wanted everybody to be able to come home and if there was any way I could help I was gonna do it,” Erbe said.
It’s that mindset that’s helped this community and so many others along the shore in their fight to come back stronger.