Ocean County Press Release

OCEAN COUNTY officials are assessing damage and conducting rescue operations on both barrier islands in the wake of perhaps the most severe storm ever to strike the New Jersey coast.

Access to both Long Beach Island and the Northern Barrier Island remains blocked and there will be no public access to either island anytime today, said Chief Michael G. Osborn of the Ocean County Sheriff's Department.

Ocean County's emergency shelters remain open and are housing about 1,300 people.

Ocean County Emergency Management officials are working with municipalities, the State Police and the New Jersey National Guard to aid any storm victims who did not heed the call to evacuate and are now trapped by floodwaters.

"The National Guard has two Black Hawk helicopters patrolling the coast today to assist in any rescues," Osborn said.

Emergency Management officials stressed that people should not call 911, their local police departments or the Sheriff's Department to ask when the islands will reopen.

"Right now it is physically impossible to drive onto the barrier islands," Osborn said. "There will be no public access to the coastal towns today. We will reassess the situation tomorrow and inform the public."

Osborn said 911 and local police operators are busy fielding emergency calls and will not respond to questions about when the islands will reopen.

According to on-scene reports, many island roads are still under several feet of water, especially during high tide.

"The good news is we are not seeing any additional flooding from the ocean, only from the bay," Osborn said. "The wind is no longer pushing the bay waters in, so each tide cycle should be lower than the last."

Once the water finally retreats, workers will need time to remove sand and debris from the roadway.

Crews from the Ocean County Engineer's office are waiting for the water to recede before they can assess damage to the Mantoloking Bridge at the north end of the bay.

A house washed away and struck the bridge's eastern abutment late Monday after ocean waters broke through the dunes and met the bay near the eastern entrance to the bridge.

"Once the water drains and we can get out there we'll check the abutment and the ramp for any damage," said Ocean County Engineer Frank S. Scarantino.

Several intact houses were also reported to be floating in the bay near the channel early yesterday.

"Structurally, the bridge is in no danger," Scarantino said. "This is a very sound structure."

On a positive note, Scarantino said Sandy had little impact on the county's inland bridges, many of which were damaged by Hurricane Irene last year.

"Our crews are out today mostly removing fallen trees, clearing roads and repairing traffic signals," Scarantino said.

Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little advised residents to travel carefully and only if they absolutely need to.

"This is not the time to sightsee," he said. "The flood waters are still very dangerous."

Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety, commended the emergency workers and volunteers who put their own lives at risk during the storm.

"We are very fortunate to have such skilled and dedicated men and women who help protect the residents of Ocean County," Kelly said.

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