When people ask me where I live in New Jersey, especially when I'm out of state, I offer a roundabout answer. I tell them 10 miles away from Rutgers University in New Brunswick. I'm not really down the shore, and I'm not in North Jersey, which to me, is anything above the Driscoll Bridge. I live in a town called Old Bridge in lower Middlesex County.
As I was listening to the radio last night, the host happily announced that Old Bridge's power was restored.That's not actually the case for all of Old Bridge; only parts are restored. (I witnessed that Route 9 North near Sayreville border has power and areas by Englishtown Road and Texas Road are the last I heard).
But power remains out in my section of town, a post WWII-built section, called Sayrewoods South. Our side of town is lucky not to be in a flood zone, like the town's waterfront Laurence Harbor. I have not ventured over to that side of town, but this article from the Statehouse Bureau shows it clearly: devastation to homes and property.
On my side of town, the aftermath was much less devastating but shocking in its own way. Trees on cars, trees on fences, trees in the middle of the road. A tree fell partially on our house, but there was no damage thanks to the quick work of my fearless father who stood on the roof during the hurricane and cut the branches with an electric saw, while we still had power. Meanwhile, my mother and I got soaked holding the ladder and yelled at him to PLEASE get down. (Arguing over such matters with a Vietnam Vet and retired Jersey City cop is not easy.)
Yes, Hurricane Sandy left my neighborhood as I have never seen it before. Utility poles snapped in half like toothpicks. Wires coiled and scattered on the ground.
Two nights ago, I ran down my street in the pitch black after seeing trucks that I hoped belong to JCP&L. They were tree guys instead asking me, a local resident, where they could go to clear damage just so JCP&L can start their work (hopefully soon).
I directed them down Cindy Street in the area of the most tree damage I had seen in the neighborhood. On one of my favorite tree-lined streets, Seneca, enormous trees stretched the road, the sidewalk flipped onto the street like a spatula flipping a pancake. I spoke to one of the homeowners on Seneca who told me that he and his family watched from their living room as a massive tree started falling towards them, on the opposite side of the street. The day before he had told his daughter to move her car out of the way, just in case. Dad's wisdom prevailed.
"I just made the last payment two weeks ago," he said with disgust.
In his backyard, a tree snapped in half and fell onto his covered inground pool. "I'm just fortunate it didn't hit my house," he said.
Several homeowners throughout the neighborhood have fallen trees on their homes and will now have to put in claims for damage.
While inland Old Bridge seems to have been Hurricane Sandy's very own wind tunnel, the residents are tough here and thankful it wasn't worse. They are cleaning up what they can, and Mayor Owen Henry is trying to clear the streets for JCP&L and their associates to restore the power.
Compared to the mess at the Harbor and the devastation of the shore, we can count our lucky stars.