Sandy batters Ocean City, closing bridges, toppling its fishing pier and flooding streets

October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy arrived in this coastal resort town with the roar that was expected on Monday, as towering waves snapped a fishing pier, rain and seawater inundated city streets and officials shut down both major bridges that normally carry thousands of visitors to beaches and hotels in the summer months.

City officials and residents compared the storm to Hurricane Gloria in 1985, when the area’s scenic boardwalk was destroyed and had to be rebuilt. Since then, the city has installed a seawall and dunes, so property damage was not expected to be as significant.

Still, damage from the powerful storm was evident across the city. A section of its fishing pier, about 150 feet long, that extends over the Atlantic was toppled by towering, surging waves. The pier had last been significantly damaged in the late 1970s, officials said.

Along the boardwalk, heavy metal benches had been ripped from their mountings and sea debris was everywhere, on the boardwalk and beyond, indicating that waves had crashed into beachfront buildings and homes. The lower stories of many low-lying buildings, most of them unoccupied, were flooded.

Police closed both the Route 90 and the lower-lying Route 50 bridge and also blocked off about half the streets of the city, essentially the city’s entire lower, southern half, which is more prone to flooding.

Sandy's projected rainfall totals

Police were called to rescue 35 people as of Monday afternoon, according to city spokeswoman Jessica Waters. No one had died or been seriously injured, officials said.

“The community has listened to what we’ve asked them to do,” said Joe Theobald, director of emergency services.

About 200 residents remain in the city’s most flood-prone areas, officials say, despite an earlier mandatory evacuation.

Mike Strawley, 70, trudged around lower Ocean City in full rain gear during a break from the howling wind, which gusted to 65 mph Monday afternoon. Water flooded a road and reached window levels at some homes. Strawley had lost power in his house but, luckily enough, it hadn’t flooded.

Strawley has been in Ocean City his whole life. He has yet to be chased away by a storm and did not regret his decision to stay. “It is what it is,” he said. “You can’t change it.”

Brothers Newton and David Weaver were also among the holdouts. Newton, 60, said their grandfather was among the original inhabitants of the town, and they, too, said it would take much more to force them to leave.

“You live down here, it’s a part of life,” he said. He had filled up on water for toilets, ordered several pizzas the night before the storm, and had plenty of batteries and flashlights.

Many parts of the bay side of the city were impassable, as water from the bay inundated city streets.

What worried the Weavers and others is not what had already come, despite nearly seven feet of water, but what was expected: a full moon, high tide and rain that was expected to bring severe flooding overnight and into Tuesday morning.

“It’s kind of frightening,” Newton said. “There could be a real tidal surge.”

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