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The Storm Warrior Of Ward 1

Township Council President James J. Byrnes lost his home in Superstorm Sandy

When Township Councilman James J. Byrnes was a young Army medic in Vietnam, he was used to triage and rescuing his fellow veterans.

So when Superstorm Sandy roared into Bayville on Oct. 29, Byrnes went on autopilot. This time, he rescued his fellow residents.

Never mind that his Dogwood Drive home was virtually destroyed, with a foot and a half of water and a cracked foundation. He spent Oct. 30 driving a bus up and down Butler Boulevard, ferrying storm victims from the flooded streets of Glen Cove to safety at the Bayville Firehouse on Route 9 North.

"Call it the medic in me," he said with a smile.

Although stunned by the loss of his home, Byrnes, 64, wasted no time feeling sorry for himself. He still spends many days driving around Glen Cove and devastated Good Luck Point, checking up on those who still remained and watching for looters.

"How are ya doing?" he'll say, during his patrols around the waterfront sections of Bayville.

"I got two cars gone and my house doesn't have a roof," resident Douglas Nutley told Byrnes, during a November tour of the battered area. "I'm getting too old for this aggravation."

Byrnes represents the Ward 1 section of Berkeley, which includes Glen Cove, Good Luck Point, Holly Park, South Seaside Park, Pelican Island and Toms River Shores.

Shortly after Sandy finally blew on and out of Ocean County, Brynes and Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. got to work on arranging a series of informational sessions to help storm-struck residents deal with the damage and move towards recovery.

"This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon," Byrnes told a crowd of hundreds at a rebuilding seminar in January. "People are wearing down. I haven't gotten any insurance yet. I'm tearing my house down. We are all in this together and we are going to get through it."

Brynes - the facilities director for the Freehold Regional School District - has fronted his own money to demolish the slab portion of his home and install pilings. The house now sits more than 12 feet above sea level, which should be enough to protect it from future storms.

But like many others, he has not received his total insurance settlement yet. When asked to describe the mood of Sandy-impacted Bayville residents, he answers with one word.

"Frustrated," he says.

"We need to get moving here," he said during a walk down his street with Berkeley Patch. "I've got 10 houses on my street alone that are coming down. There's an urgency. We need to get this behind us."

Brynes has moved up his retirement from the Freehold school district to April 1. That will give him more time to devote helping storm-battered residents in his ward. He spent a day last week in South Seaside Park with Amato, planting dune grass.

"I try to do everything I can to help" he said. "It's a very difficult situation. It's unprecedented. I feel an obligation to do whatever I can to help."

When a council meeting in late 2012 broke up, Byrnes spent time in the hallway talking to distraught residents. One older woman with tears in her eyes told him she didn't know where to start.

"Alan," Byrnes yelled over to Township Engineer Alan Dittenhofer, then grabbed him by the shoulder and steered him over to the woman. "Come over and talk to this lady. She needs help."

brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:41 PM
another one....get a life!
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:43 PM
you should have had a better life choice!! Maybe you should put 20 years in the service.
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:44 PM
He almost did die for his country. Get off the soap box and put your energy to helping all those who are still homeless from the storm.
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:45 PM
Well put Brian
brokeninbayville April 03, 2013 at 12:47 PM
We gotta do what we gotta do. This was an event beyond our wildest imaginations. Sit home in your cushy house while others are living in shelters...

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