OCEAN CITY — Municipal workers swept through Ocean City before dawn Tuesday, clearing debris from the boardwalk and streets as the pelting from Hurricane Sandy subsided and residents took toll of the damage.
The beachfront town has seen its fair share of storms, and although Sandy didn’t land the direct hit that was feared just a few days ago, hurricane-force winds and nearly 10 inches of rain inundated streets and flooded homes and businesses.
Still, most residents were grateful that there had been no injuries or deaths here. With the help of the National Guard, Ocean City officials relocated 49 people from flood-prone homes, some of whom had stayed in low-lying areas that had been ordered to evacuate.
Marie Seston, 72, who lives in one of those areas, pointed at her feet as she boarded a bus to go home from an area shelter. She said she had only the blue socks on her feet, no shoes: The water was above her knees when she called authorities to pick her up.
She didn’t know what would await her when she got home. “As long as I have a life, I’m fine,” she said.
Mayor Rick Meehan said large dunes and a seawall did their jobs. Although 150 feet of a fishing pier was destroyed and much of the western, Chesapeake Bay side of the town was flooded, he and other officials said it could have been worse.
Up the coast, in Rehoboth Beach, Andrew Herrick found his home less damaged than he’d expected — an awning ripped off by strong winds, a door frame cracked.
After a day and a night of pounding surf, surging bay water, about 10 inches of rain and whipping winds, many in the Delaware beach communities felt mostly relief.
“I thought for sure we would have a lot more damage,” Herrick said.
In Dewey Beach, roads were still closed for all but essential transportation, though the water that had risen from the bay side had receded. There was damage to two restaurants and to boats at a marina, Mayor Diane Hanson. But homes were spared major structural harm.
Bethany Beach had significant tidal flooding — with lots of water still on some roads Tuesday — but property damage was minimal.
Back in Ocean City, the most grateful people of all might have been John Roper and Mary Herl, both 52, who live in a mobile home park next to the water. Their bedroom sits just feet from the bay.
When the couple left home at 5 p.m., water was quickly rising on the stairs, and the rain and wind were in full force.
“We gave it up, and we kissed it goodbye,” Roper said of their home.
Roper grabbed his Fender Telecaster guitar; Herl clung to a handed-down engagement ring along with other belongings that had special meaning.
When they got back in town, they saw boats in the bay that were damaged and drifting, debris everywhere and neighbors’ homes flooded. Their home was whole and dry.
Strangest of all, Roper spotted an old trunk his grandmother had given him, washed ashore.
It had been lost last year, during Hurricane Irene, he said, and Sandy had brought it back.
“We’ve been blessed,” Herl said.