2012 Superstorm Sandy

2012 Superstorm Sandy

On October 29th, 2012, Superstorm Sandy, a massive Category 3 Atlantic hurricane heading north, took a dramatic left turn and made landfall just south of Long Beach Island, bringing devastation to the coastal communities from LBI to New York City and beyond. With three successive full-moon high tides, the storm surge and the northeast wind brought flood surges that caused major damage to 90% of the homes in Brant Beach. Most homeowners had heeded the mandatory evacuation orders, but some essential employees and recalcitrant residents remained.

Most Brant Beach homes were two-story ground-level capes rather than the reverse-living floorplans common today. The first floors of many of these older homes, containing their kitchens, living rooms, and utilities, were destroyed. Those spared were mainly oceanfront and some oceanside homes from 31st to 57th Street, which benefited from a recent beach replenishment.

For two weeks, the bridge was closed to most traffic while the roads were plowed, gas lines were shut off, and houses were searched for fatalities. Long Beach Boulevard was impassable due to piles of sand and debris. When owners and residents were allowed to return by showing their township-issued placards at the entrance to the Causeway, they quickly piled their soaked furniture, carpet and appliances at the curb. Trash trucks hauled it all to the Acme parking lot, which became the staging ground for mountains of debris. The Acme had received several feet of water inside and was closed.

The Red Cross offered free coffee and meals. The Dutchman’s Brauhaus and Beach Haven Terrace’s California Grill, both spared, were the first restaurants to reopen to the dazed community, offering a few basic menu items. The Township prioritized displaced full-time residents when restoring water, gas and electricity.

Technically, Sandy was not a hurricane when it made landfall, which helped homeowners whose insurance policies excluded hurricane damage. But they still grappled with the distinctions in coverage between homeowners’ insurance and flood insurance. Many long-time owners who had paid off their mortgages did not have flood insurance at all and were unable to remediate.

Within a year or two, damaged homes were raised or razed, and the island rebounded. The telltale sign inside many buildings was new wainscoting halfway up the walls to cover the area where soaked wallboard had been removed.

Some storm-damaged houses were sold rather than renovated. This hastened a trend where homes that had been weekly rentals filled with large extended families were bought by new owners who kept the property for personal use. These families were often wealthier and would come down primarily on weekends rather than for the full season.

In addition, the percentage of New Yorkers increased, and Long Beach Island was no longer a bastion solely of Phillies, Eagles, Flyers, and Sixers fans.

Shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues as miniature golf courses noticed they had fewer customers on weekdays. Brant Beach businesses such as Dom’s Drive-in and the Colony Movie Theater were torn down and replaced by luxury houses, but still it seemed the total summer population was decreasing. Superstorm Sandy accelerated a change that was already underway.