Only a few people get to experience the great storms and they tend to remember every detail of every moment. And while most hope they never have to go through one again, only a few wish they’d missed it in the first place.”

— from the Preface

Great Storms of the Jersey Shore

By Larry Savadove, Margaret Thomas Buchholz
and Scott Mazzella

Foreword by Senator Bill Bradley

Afterword by Gilbert M. Gaul

240 pages, 274 illustrations, index, bibliography, 11" x 11" hardcover

ISBN 978-1-59322-123-2

Updated expanded 2nd edition — includes Superstorm Sandy

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(From Chapter 4, “Great Atlantic Hurricane, 1944” continued)

For Mariana Johnson, the loss of her grandparents’ Holgate home was “like a death in the family.” She and her cousins, Carol Mastran and Isabel Wickham, returned there the next day on an Army flatbed truck. “All the landmarks were gone, telephone poles were gone; we were all crying. The Whitmers’ house next door had been washed onto our property and only the attic and a part of the second floor were left. There was nothing there from our house except an anchor that had been under the house, a few pieces of slate and a marble tabletop. I had nightmares for a year.”

Chief Griffen and Sam Kleva had taken refuge in the Whitmer house and were trapped in the attic. “They watched the destruction of our house. They saw shingles spin off and around in a circle, then saw the slate come off,” recalls Carol Mastran. “The house was well boarded with bolted shutters; it was airtight and the wind lifted it off the foundations. When it sank back down, this gigantic wave took it into the bay and then it washed back, breaking up into pieces. Because they witnessed the wind pick up our house, we collected insurance.”

Warren Griffen, stranded in a lifeboat at the yacht club, watched the seas coming over everything. Small boats, parts of houses, planks of the boardwalk, pieces of beach pavilions and sections of Nat Ewer’s boardwalk gift shop were all pushed into the bay.

Just east of the yacht club, Mabel Reeve waited out the storm at Betsy Ross Rooms and Bath House on the southeast corner of Holyoke and Bay avenues. In a letter to her husband the next day, she wrote:

“While the streets were flooded, I saw flashlights going past, so I called to them. It was two Coast Guards. They came in and I asked them if they thought it was safe here for the night. They said the wind had gone down and changed S.W. and the tide was going out, so everything was all right. I couldn’t have gotten out anyway for the water was nearly up to their hips. I told them I thought the Coast Guard might have boats to take people to safety; they said no boat could stand that wind. The water came up the porch, then the little house in back banged against the porch and it’s about to collapse. The front steps are gone, and the bath houses are lying out in the lot. Menns’ house is out in the middle of the sidewalk on Holyoke Avenue, and a lot of the furniture out of it is over in the lot in front of us. As far down as I can see toward the point [Holgate], houses are sitting out in the street.....”

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(From Chapter 8, “Sandy” continued)

...Parking lots and streets resembled beaches, and boats from marinas were littered throughout town. In Monmouth Beach, sailboats completely surrounded a stately Victorian home. Boats, parts of homes and washed out cars piled up where walls or structures had stood up to the surge.

Wilkes thought of Bruce Springsteen as they flew over Asbury Park’s storm-torn boardwalk. Over Ocean Grove, Bradley Beach, Avon-By-The-Sea, Belmar, Spring Lake, Sea Girt, Manasquan and Point Pleasant Beach they looked down on bare piling protruding where pavilions, boardwalks and buildings had been swept away, and on dunes that had washed westward and covered entire towns in sand.

In Bay Head, the dunes had done little to protect oceanfront property. Grand cedar-shake homes had skirted off their foundations. One massive, mostly intact home leaned toward the sea, its western facade tilted toward the sky.

Neighboring Mantoloking was hit even harder. The bridge led straight into the sea as the ocean and bay met. A lone home remained stranded on its own little island in the middle of the new inlet. Dozens of other homes had vanished. An entire section of town had been sliced out, replaced by saltwater. Massive oceanfront homes both north and south of the breach had been ripped open, their contents swept into neighboring yards or pushed by the surge into massive piles along the tangled ribbon of broken asphalt that was Route 35.

Over Camp Osborne in Brick Township they looked down on a charred pile of broken cottages between Elder and East Marion Streets. The storm surge had shoved the houses together and fires from broken gas mains took care of the rest.

The same scene played out from Normandy Beach through Lavallette to Ortley Beach, although some areas had been hit harder than others. Sandy had targeted one stretch of shoreline while sparing the next, like a tornado that destroys one house and leaves the neighboring house unscathed. It reminded Wilkes of the peaks and valleys of a cardiograph.

At their final stop, Seaside Heights, Wilkes spotted the submerged Jet Star roller coaster. It sat in an ocean turned turquoise by upwelling from the storm....


Lieutenant Barcus and his officers could no longer respond to calls. Conditions outside the TowBoatUS building had gotten that bad. When a call came in from a Mantoloking resident, an officer wrote down the details and logged the call. They would follow up when conditions changed, but for now they had to wait it out. It was dark and the wind rattled the building, and Barcus thought about Mantoloking and what must be going on over there.

His thoughts were interrupted by flashing lights in the window. A Brick police car raced up Mantoloking Road, followed by another, then another. Then a barrage of Brick fire trucks with lights flashing and sirens blaring. Mantoloking was only a short distance up the road and there was a large fire there. They raced to their vehicles and chased the Brick motorcade to the bridge.

A police car blocked the road. The fire trucks were stopped as well. Barcus pulled up to a Brick police officer standing in the road and opened the window.
“John, you can’t go over that bridge,” the officer said.

“What do you mean? That’s Mantoloking. That’s where I work. I have to get over there,” Barcus replied.

The officer let him through but knew he wouldn’t get far. Barcus drove until he got to the crest and stopped. Ahead of him stood a wall of wood, insulation, appliances and other household debris. He was stunned. There was no way to get by and no place to go if he could. Beyond the wall of debris there was just water. It was if the ocean had consumed a section of town.

He got out of the car and looked east as waves rolled in from the ocean to the bay completely unobstructed. One home still stood intact on an island in the middle of the new waterway. Another large home was stuck against the south side of the bridge, just beyond the debris pile. The officers watched as incoming waves pushed the tons of debris farther up the bridge. To the south, the horizon had an orange glow. Camp Osborne was ablaze. As they watched, another house slammed into the bridge and ripped apart. Barcus got everyone off the bridge before they all became victims....

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