Mayor, Police Chief Paint Fuller Picture of Sandy's Destruction, Berkeley's Recovery
JCP&L rep says some areas will take full 10 days to have power restored
Hundreds of downed trees. Boats deposited in front yards. Homes with their walls torn away. Homes completely gone.
Those are the details here in Berkeley Township, where the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Sandy is still being uncovered, Mayor Carmen Amato told the Township Council at an emergency meeting on Saturday.
"We suffered massive, massive damages to our infrastructure," Amato said, as he and Police Chief Karin DiMichele gave details to the council and residents on the havoc caused.
Power remains out to nearly half of the town, Amato said, because of the number of trees brought down by the storm.
"JCP&L is working as quickly as they can to restore power," he said.
Maria Sessa, the JCP&L representative who works with Berkeley, said the crews have been working 16-hour days to get homes back online. But the extent of the damage to some areas will make restoring it a difficult, lengthy task.
Holiday City at Berkeley had unexpected amounts of damage from downed trees, DiMichele said. The damage extended underground, Sessa said. Sessa, who left the meeting not long after giving her update, later returned to say that Holiday City at Berkeley was expected to be restored by late Saturday night.
"I know everyone's frustrated," Sessa said. "There are certain areas where we can't turn on the power until we know it's safe to do so" because natural gas lines were undermined.
The area east of Bayview Avenue will be the most difficult to repair because of those issues, she said.
DiMichele said the safety issues have to be addressed before it power can be restored.
"Until the water is out (of buildings), until we are sure there are no gas leaks, we can't turn the power back on," she said.
"This is a long haul," Sessa said. "It's very frustrating."
Amato and DiMichele said the hardest hit areas were the ones east of Bayview Avenue, with homes in Glen Cove, Good Luck Point and Pelican Island suffering the most damage.
"Homes on Pelican Island have no backs," DiMichele said. On Good Luck Drive, flood waters from the storm surge reached 6 to 8 feet deep, ruining many homes. One home on Balsam Drive was completely washed away.
"There's a roof sitting in the marsh (just west of Bayview Avenue)," she said. "We don't know if it's from that house or another structure."
Amato said the water rose very quickly, going from none to 6 feet deep in 45 minutes, trapping some families who disregarded the mandatory evacuation orders. DiMichele said police officers and members of the Berkeley Underwater Search and Rescue Squad used their personal boats in the middle of the storm to go out to Glen Cove and Good Luck Point to rescue those who were trapped.
"We couldn't listen to the cries (for help) on the phone and not do something," she said.
DiMichele also praised the town's volunteer firefighters.
"They stood there all night long," she said. At the height of the storm, they battled fires at the Beachwood Shopping Center and on Harbor Inn Road, as well as monitoring the JCP&L substation on Korman Road, where transformers exploded like the Fourth of July.
Firefighters answered 350 fire calls between Sunday and Tuesday, Amato said, but there were some homes lost to fires.
DiMichele said the police department has been fielding 400 emergency calls a day and has been forced to ignore lesser issues as a result. Normal call volume is 120 per day, she said.
"We will go back to normal functioning when the area is safe," she said.