(This story was reported by James Queally, Mark Mueller and MaryAnn Spoto. It was written by Mueller. Published in The Star Ledger Nov. 1, 2012.)
On a map, New Jersey’s shore communities resemble orderly grids. Clean lines delineate beach from boardwalk, block from block.
Hurricane Sandy has vastly altered that topography.
Seen from the air for the first time since the storm sundered the coastline, many communities are now indistinguishable, a blur of sand and debris.
Houses and businesses were ripped from their foundations by the hundreds, carried effortlessly by the might of a raging ocean. Gashed and sagging, they lay at odd angles yesterday, smashed against one another or clogging streets thick with sand.
Hundreds of other homes looked as if they’d been bombed; nothing remained but piles of wood and metal.
A Star-Ledger reporter and photographer catalogued the devastation during a flyover of the Shore. The unprotected barrier islands appeared to take the hardest hit.
On the narrow spit of land that contains Seaside Heights, Ortley Beach, Lavallette and a handful of other summer playgrounds, the devastation is awesome and without design.
The ocean took this house but left that one. It claimed these four but spared those two.
During a briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Christie said a house had been pushed onto busy Route 35 in Ortley Beach. It remained there yesterday, a yellow Cape Cod-style home, cut in half.
Seaside Heights police Chief Thomas Boyd surveyed the wrecked home, wholly unsure how or when it would be removed.
“I don’t know where it came from, to tell you the truth,” he said.