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SEA BRIGHT: SHOCK AND DISMAY AT DAMAGE

A home on the Shrewsbury River side of Sea Bright showed the height of the flooding on Saturday. Below, a resident leaves a shuttle bus with recovered belongings on Monday, assisted by Councilman James LoBiondo. (Click to enlarge)

By WIL FULTON

One resident fled with nothing but his paycheck. A young couple stayed, fleeing with their two-year-old child only after watching a hurricane tear their town apart.

This week, they and other Sea Brighters began getting their first glimpses of the destructive power of Hurricane Sandy, which many of them had anticipated would blow past this sandbar town much as another storm did nearly 14 months earlier.

“I thought it would be a situation like Irene, where it turned out to be not much of a big deal,” Jim Paustian said Tuesday, as he and his family took photos outside their East New Street home, which is now uninhabitable.  “I even almost decided to stay. Now, I’m sure glad I didn’t.”

Hurricane Sandy inflicted heavy damage to oceanside homes in the Tradewinds development, one of two locations where the seawall was breached. (Click to enlarge)

On Monday, town officials allowed North Beach residents in, shuttled by bus across the bridge from Rumson, to check on their homes and retrieve valuables. A day later, owners of properties south of the bridge were permitted in, as swarms of heavy machinery and hard-hatted crews moved tons of sand, righted bent utility poles and hustled to make the place liveable again and brace it for a possible Northeaster on Wednesday.

Waiting for the shuttle Tuesday, Center Street residents Joe Francello and Kersti Raiena reflected on the events of the previous eight days. Despite a mandatory evacuation order, they’d decided to ride out the storm’s landfall on October 29 with their daughter, but ready to go at a moment’s notice, emergency bags packed with essentials. They were forced to evacuate early the following morning, and hadn’t been back since.

“Basically, we had clothes for our two-year-old, all our important documents, and our laptop—with all our pictures and financial records,” Ralena said. “Everything else was expendable.”

Aboard a packed shuttle, Councilman James LoBiondo urged residents to shut off circuit breakers and turn off water supplies in an effort to help protect against surges when the town’s infrastructure returns and “to stop any further damage that may occur to your homes.”

Pablo Lizett of Center Street, told redbankgreen that he left two days before the storm with nothing but his paycheck in hand, not fully realizing the extent of Sandy’s force till one of his neighbors told him that his house has been completely walloped.

Lizett was not alone when it came to underestimating the storm. Mother Nature’s power is apparent throughout the borough, with building debris, trees, sand, and pretty much everything else imaginable littering the streets and yards of town.

Many residents returned home to find drawers, microwaves and ovens filled with water, and foreign debris scattered throughout their houses.

For some, it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Elaine West Friberg thought she had reached a tentative deal with a buyer regarding her late-mother’s Church Street house the Friday before the storm. Three days later Sandy hit, and it now looks as though the sale won’t go through due to extensive damage to the residence, she said

“Who knows though,?” she said. “Maybe this was a sign that we should keep the house in the family. We’ll probably try to rebuild.”

As stunned as they were at the devastation, some residents were equally impressed by the effort to clear the streets and get Sea Bright back to normal.

“Even though it may still look bad, it’s 100-percent better than what it was even a few days ago,” Francello said. “That’s what’s really unbelievable.”

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