(Oct. 31, 2012) Despite near-apocalyptic predictions from state and federal officials, Ocean City and its surrounding areas appear to have sustained limited damage from the hybrid storm system surrounding Hurricane Sandy.
Although flooding caused some loss in the low-lying downtown areas of the island, impact damage from water and wind was almost negligible, leaving most homes and businesses soggy, but structurally sound.
“All in all, compared to some of the places to the north of us, we got spared,” said Ocean City Public Works Director Hal Adkins.
Flooding, several feet high in some locations, owed little to Sandy’s wind and rain and more to its tidal effects. The large, slow moving storm system created a massive area of low pressure which, combined with the already-expected tidal cycle, compounded the rise in sea level over several days.
Still, the sea wall succeeded in limiting the impact damage of the breaks. “We had waves slamming into it, crashing over it, but at least it wasn’t undercutting the buildings,” Adkins said.
Adkins said the city’s priorities lie in clearing detritus from the roads and Boardwalk, as well as moving tons of sand that had been washed inland back into place.
“I’ve got a fleet of loaders and bulldozers coming in on the beach for sand removal along the seawall,” Adkins said. “Our next major effort will be when we go to attack the inlet parking lot. The sand is about 4 feet deep on the east side.”
Because the beach and dunes absorbed so much impact, structural damage along the oceanfront was little to none. The most visible casualty was the city’s fishing pier, which lost roughly 100 feet of its eastern tip.
“We are luckily not in the position of New Jersey or New York,” Ocean City Communications Manager Jessica Waters said. “Obviously the pier is a regrettable loss, though, and there will be some debris cleanup and beach replenishment issues.”
Adkins estimated that cleanup from the municipal side could take as little as a week.
Like many resort business owners, Ragamuffin Jewelry and Clothing owner Susan Emond found her store to be a bit damp, but structurally unharmed.
“We got some water in the back, but we can just use a shop vac to clean it out,” Emond said. “Considering what it could’ve been…we took all the precautions, but we were lucky. If this is all we got, we did well.”
Elsewhere in the county, Sandy’s damage to trees was keeping some people busy Tuesday as they cleaned up, and in some cases, cut up the damage.
On Tuesday, Fabian Rodriquez was using a chainsaw to cut up a tree that fell on a house he rents to others on Keyser Point Road in West Ocean City. That particular tree fell away from the house, but a tree fell on his own house on Bonita Drive around 1:45 p.m. Monday. He disposed of that tree before moving on to his rental properties.
Keyser Point also saw two trees fall on power lines at about 5 p.m. Monday.
“I heard the explosions, but didn’t know what was going on,” Rodriguez said. “I went outside and saw the second explosion. Sparks were flying all over the place.”
The power lines were pulled down and crews were taking care of the situation on Tuesday.
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.
By Sunday night, the OCPD had restricted vehicle access below 17th Street, eventually moving the roadblock up to 33rd Street and then to 62nd Street as the storm worsened Monday morning. Traffic restrictions were gradually removed on Tuesday.
Worcester County declared a state of emergency Sunday, which was subsequently lifted Tuesday. The order called for the West Ocean City communities of Cape Isle of Wight, Mystic Harbor, Snug Harbor, and The Landings and Assateague Point to evacuate. Residents of South Point, properties east of the parkway in Ocean Pines, and all other waterfront properties in the county were also vacated.
Multiple agencies across the region opened emergency shelters. The Red Cross reported that it had 25 shelters with 1,878 occupants across the Delmarva Peninsula, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley announced Sunday that the 20 of the 38 county-run shelters in the state would be open, as well as three of the five state-run shelters.
Waters confirmed that 49 people had been evacuated from Ocean City to nearby shelters during the storm. The town enlisted the aid of the National Guard in patrolling flooded downtown streets with heavy military trucks that could plow through the high water.
As of Tuesday afternoon, all shelters in the county were closed and residents had returned to their homes.
Power outage was also surprisingly limited in the area. Delmarva Power, Ocean City’s sole electricity provider, preemptively cut power to some downtown areas because of flood encroachment, but restored the service early Tuesday morning, according to Delmarva representative Matt Likovich.
Likovich noted two instances of damage to the city’s electrical infrastructure that are causing outages. On 24th Street, a broken pole and downed wires had 345 customers in the dark, while on 32nd Street, a switch gear corroded with salt and sand knocked out another 314. Downed poles on 18th and 65th streets were not affecting customers. A handful of single-building outages were also reported, scattered throughout the island.
Outside of the resort, Likovich said that the county was experiencing between 2,600 and 2,700 outages, of which 1,500 were in West Ocean City. Roughly 15,700 customers on the Eastern Shore were affected, and 32,000 thus far in the state as a whole.
Still, Likovich said, “things are a little better than we anticipated.”
Delmarva Power has brought on thousands of additional crew to repair lines, including outside contractors, and Likovich said that the goal was to have the majority of the Ocean City region back online by Tuesday evening.