(I wrote this story on Oct. 30, as first light revealed the devastation left by Hurricane Sandy: thousands of homes destroyed, millions of people in the dark, dozens dead. After this post went live on NJ.com, Star-Ledger reporter Ted Sherman continued adding detail for the print edition.)
Calamitous. Incalculable. Unthinkable.
New Jersey officials and residents have run out of words to describe the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy, a behemoth of a storm that more than lived up to its hype.
Up and down the coast, the ocean roared ashore, dislodging homes from their foundations, ripping away piers and swallowing entire neighborhoods. Unprecedented storm surge in the Raritan Bay and up the Hudson River pushed seawater into places it had never gone before.
In Sayreville, residents were rescued from rooftops. In the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge, clothing hung from the trees, as if propelled by a bomb. In the Bergen County community of Moonachie, swamped by the swollen Hackensack River, the police station, fire department, civic center, borough hall and ambulance squad buildings were heavily damaged.
“Everything is destroyed,” said Frank Smith, Moonachie’s assistant fire chief. “We have nothing. Everything is done. Gone.”
More than 2.5 million homes and businesses were without power this afternoon, and utility officials warned residents to brace for hardship. They said it could be a week to 10 days to complete the restoration. Or it could be longer.
“This wall of water that hit New Jersey is not something we could have prepared for, although I wish we could have,” PSE&G President Ralph LaRossa said.