ZACK HOOPES ¦ Staff Writer
Brett Godman, left, and his father, Darren, are in good spirits as they remove a sodden sofa from Brett’s apartment on St. Louis Avenue and North Division Street. Water in the unit was nearly a foot high during the peak of Hurricane Sandy.OCEAN CITY TODAY/ZACK HOOPES(Nov. 2, 2012) “We got lucky, real lucky.”
This is not a statement one expects to hear from the owner of a building which, 24 hours earlier, had nearly a foot of standing water in its first floor.
But flooding is something that Christine Godman, owner of the apartment building on the north side of St. Louis Avenue and North Division Street in Ocean City, has become accustomed to. Hurricane Sandy will mark the fourth time that water has gotten into the units since Godman bought the building in 1991.
And, according to Godman, this wasn’t even the worst. She measured just over 11 inches of water in the ground units – but prior, anonymous storms have submerged the units even further on at least one occasion.
(Top photo) The flood level at the Godmans’ building close to the peak of the storm shows water just beginning to enter the doorways. (Above) A view of St. Louis Avenue from the Route 50 bridge, looking north, shows the extent of inundation on the bayside of downtown Ocean City.PHOTOS COURTESY ROBERT KORB JR., WORCESTER COUNTY DEPUTY FIRE MARSHAL“We lost the mattress, the sofa, the carpet – I think that’s it,” said Godman as she cleaned out the unit occupied by her son, Brett, on Tuesday afternoon. “And this pair of Timberland boots, if that counts.”
“And a blanket, apparently,” she added as she peeled the soggy cloth from beneath the sofa.
Much of the danger usually associated with hurricanes comes from wind, something which Sandy did not have much of. Instead, Sandy brought flooding, which owed less to the rain from the storm herself and more to the tidal effects she induced.
In fact, according to AccuWeather, Sandy’s low pressure — 27.76 inches of mercury on Monday afternoon — is the second-lowest on record for the seaboard north of Cape Hatteras, N.C. It was surpassed only by Hurricane Gladys in 1977.
The ground floor of Godman’s building consists of efficiency-style units – single rooms with sofa beds and kitchenettes, plus a bathroom. Brett has been living in the southernmost unit for a little over two years. Determined at first to stick out the storm, he left when it became clear that the water was going to get in as far as it wanted.
“I waited until it was about ankle high,” he recalled.
Despite its flood-prone location next to the Route 50 bridge, the apartment block – most notable for the large billboard on its roof that greets visitors coming into the island – has a small group of devotees who rent units from Godman year-round.
Resident Rich Airey has lived in Ocean City since 1981, but only moved to the St. Louis Avenue building recently.
“I’ve been through most of these before … but I’ve never seen it get this high,” Airey said, pointing to the thin line of flotsam and jetsam that had dried onto his wall, marking the peak of the tide.
Ocean City ordered a mandatory evacuation of the area below 17th Street by 8 p.m. on Sunday, although Ocean City Police Department Chief Bernadette DiPino estimated that roughly 80 percent of downtown’s residential population, about 200 people, had chosen to stay.
Airey ended up leaving during the height of the storm. “I had to call the National Guard to come get me out,” he said.
But other than sodden carpeting, Airey found most of his possessions intact, including his rabbit hutch, which – much to the advantage of its leporine inhabitants – was elevated.
In contrast to some of his neighbors, the building’s longest-term tenant – John McKee – was so well recovered that it almost appeared, to the casual observer, as if the storm had somehow not happened in his unit.
By 2:30 pm on Tuesday, he had successfully used an industrial vacuum to get all of the sand and water out of his carpeting, and was leaning in his doorway, drinking an Old Milwaukee.
“I try to keep on top of it. It’s the best you can do,” said McKee, who has lived in the building for the past five years while working as a cook at the Bonfire. “But I love it here. It’s the hazard of living on the beach, I guess.”
McKee had stayed in his unit through the entire storm, pulling the bottom drawers out of his furniture, and stacked everything on top of his elevated bed frame. Godman had done the same using milk crates in her son’s apartment, with relative success.
“Although, for your own information,” she warned, “it seems that a milk crate is about ten and a half inches high.”
McKee also observed what several others have noted – that the majority of the flooding occurred before the rain even started, due to the high tide forcing water back out of storm drains and, in McKee’s unit, the drain on his bathroom floor.
“You get a lot of ground water that comes up through there,” he said.
Despite his meticulous cleaning, McKee said, “if you look real close, you can tell the ocean’s been in here.”