SEA BRIGHT BATTENS DOWN FOR WALLOPING

Residents crowded the downtown bus stop and shopkeepers boarded up windows Sunday afternoon in anticipation of Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Rebecca Desfosse. Click to enlarge)

By: REBECCA DESFOSSE

Most or all of the Sea Bright residents who were leaving town had complied with a so-called mandatory evacuation order or were in the process of doing so, Mayor Dina Long told redbankgreen shortly before 6 p.m. Sunday.

But among the town’s 1,800 residents are some who refuse to leave, and town officials said they have no legal wherewithal to force them to do so, even with a hurricane expected to inflict historic damage tracking northward.

“That’s what they do – they ride out storms,” said Long. “I’m hoping an praying that they don’t have to be rescued.”

Councilman and emergency services liaison Read Murphy said police and volunteers ran a check of the streets in town after a 4 p.m. evacuation horn was sounded, marking the departure deadline.

“We just let them know, if you get in trouble, we’re not going to come get you,” he said of the holdouts.

By noontime Sunday, the borough, pinched between the Atlantic Ocean and the Shrewsbury River, had gotten a taste of what’s to come, when first high tide of the day had the river pouring up side streets to Ocean Avenue.

With Sunday night’s high tide, at 9:50 p.m., “I expect you’ll see Sea Bright under water,” said Long.

Chris Woody, owner of Woody’s Ocean Grille said he was “boarding up windows and crossing my fingers.”

He’s done this before – just over a year ago in preparation of Hurricane Irene. Luckily, Irene left Sea Bright lightly touched, but the town may not be so lucky with this “Frankenstorm,” officials fear.

Murphy said he believes this will be “the worst storm of our lifetimes.”

Joe Harakal, who works at the Sunoco on Ocean Avenue, called the situation “crazy.” He said pretty much everyone who came through the gas station was evacuating. Many were heading to hotels in Red Bank, he said.

Still, he’s encountered holdouts, who’ve told him, “If they did it in 1992, they can do it again,” he said.

Guy Belinsky, a borough resident, said he was moving stuff up high off the floor and moving items the wind might take away. But he wasn’t  sticking around to see what happens.

Brian George, the owner of Northshore Menswear, said he’s more worried about this storm than the northeaster that hit in 1992, because Sandy  “seems to be a combo Nor’easter and Hurricane.”was busy boarding up the windows, elevating merchandise and placing sandbags along the doorways.

“The rest,” he said, “is in God’s hands.”