By Erin Delmore
Seaside Heights is a hub for summer vacationers and weekend visitors alike, but today is no day at the beach. This area is closed down — marked by padlocks and caution tape — to keep people from setting foot onto this beach ahead of Tropical Storm Hermine.
The storm is working its way up the East Coast, damaging power lines and roadways in Florida and North Carolina. The eye of the storm is expected to turn out to sea as it approaches the tri-state area, but hurricane-force winds are expected to whip the Jersey Shore, parts of New York City and Long Island Sunday night into Monday.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Suffolk County and ordered a voluntary evacuation of Fire Island. Gov. Chris Christie ordered a state of emergency in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties. Officials in Seaside Heights say they expect to see a storm surge between three and six feet. That could cause coastal flooding and beach erosion.
“We did a lot of prepping all week long. We handed out probably about 500 sandbags yesterday to local residents to protect their houses in case we did have flooding. But as of right now, it doesn’t look like any flooding and no evacuations at all,” said Bill Hibell, coordinator of the Seaside Heights Office of Emergency Management.
“We’re in pretty good shape down here because our marina is actually lower than the street level. And the heavy winds go right over us. They go right over us. See the flag will be going and down here, the boats won’t be moving. So we’re kind of lucky in the situation we’re in right here,” said Steve Healey, owner of Cranberry Inlet Marina.
Is Lavalette resident Vinny Manno worried about this storm?
“Not at all. We’ve been through Sandy, so this is nothing,” he said.
Four years ago, Superstorm Sandy ravaged this iconic Jersey Shore hotspot. Its police chief told us, nearly three quarters of the town was under water.
The Office of Emergency Management in Seaside Heights has two retired military trucks. We spoke with a firefighter in Seaside who told me they were driving them through the streets during Hurricane Sandy. And then he told me the water reached higher than the headlights. The only way they could see in front of them was by shining flashlights through the front window.
How does this storm compare to Hurricane Sandy?
“This is nothing. This is basically a heavy northeaster. A typical northeaster on the Jersey coast,” said Jay Boyd, chief of Seaside Heights Beach Patrol.
Seaside Heights native Boyd lifeguarded through the ’70s and ’80s, then joined the State Police. Now he’s back, heading up his hometown’s lifeguard patrol.
“We’re still concerned about winds and flooding. We’ve got a lot of people visiting us for different reasons,they’re on vacation or maybe just thrill seekers seeking what is it like during a storm,” said Seaside Heights Mayor Tony Vaz.
“The water, I always tell people the ocean is a dangerous playground and when you get in there and when you think you’re secure, you’re not,” said Seaside Heights Police Chief Thomas J. Boyd.
Officials tell me they’re keeping a close eye on tonight’s high tide. They’re expecting one to two inches of rainfall — even less inland — but wind speeds could go 30 to 40 miles per hour, wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour.
Officials are telling me they still hope to see this storm turn eastward to lessen the impact on land.