Photos posted on the Gannett image website.(AT)
Asbury Park (N.J.) Press
MANTOLOKING, N.J. -- The house that sat offshore in about 5 feet of water was a symbol of the personal and public devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy in New Jersey.
Six months ago, the home had been ripped from its foundation as the Atlantic Ocean rose over the northern barrier island and sliced an inlet through the heart of the borough, dragging the house 200 feet west into Barnegat Bay in a storm surge that reached 12 feet, according to Mayor George C. Nebel.
On Thursday, contractors hired by the state began demolishing the two-story house, a methodical process that required multiple barges, booms and other vessels. Workers had to be careful not to trigger an uncontrolled collapse of the house that would further pollute the bay -- a difficult job given that the first floor was completely submerged. The demolition was expected to take up to two days.
"We had a press conference, and we could not even have it in our town," Nebel said. "It was impossible. The borough of Mantoloking was divided into three distinct sections. In this very spot, we would have been standing in 12 feet of water. This was an inlet, bay to ocean."
This was one of three houses that ended up intact in the bay in Ocean County. Across the state, there were eight that the Oct. 29 storm pushed into coastal waters.
"Each and every one of those homes contains memories," Nebel said. "Birthday celebrations, weddings, a summer barbecue, a baby's first steps; the list goes on and on. The home behind me included awards on the walls, a brightly decorated teenager's bedroom, memories of laughter in the pool, a dog that liked to jump in the bay, and memories of cherished time spent with family and friends."
Six months ago, amid the ruins of his town, the mayor promised that Mantoloking would be back one day.
"We are getting there. We are making incredible progress, and incredible progress will continue
Nebel was joined Thursday by Commissioner Bob Martin of the state Department of Environmental Protection and Ocean County Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari at a news conference before demolition began on the house.
The Roberts family, who owned the house, opted not to watch it be demolished and were not in town Thursday. Since the storm, the house had become a kind of a macabre tourist attraction. Over the past six months, authorities even had to chase away groups of teenagers who boated over to the home to party on its second floor, Vicari said.
Martin said the state was committed to a long-term rebuilding program and getting people the resources they need to do so.
More than 360,000 homes were damaged in the storm.
During the next few weeks, the rest of the homes in the state's waterways will be removed. That will pave the way for the Army Corps of Engineers to begin dredging sand and sediment that was pushed into the waters.
"I expect the vast majority of the waterways will be open for boating, fishing and recreation this summer," Martin said.
In the meantime, Martin echoed the governor's commitment to build a network of dunes on ocean beaches from Cape May to the Bayshore region and to obtain the necessary easements from private property owners to do so.
"We can't build that full coastal protection system without those easements," the commissioner said.