Summer is almost here, and many of you are thinking about vacations. For some, that will include a trip to the beach. Many midstaters travel to the Jersey Shore every year. But after Hurricane Sandy, is now a good time?
The storm slammed the East Coast on Oct. 29, 2012, leaving much of the shore in ruins. "It was pretty intense. I've lived here all my life, I've never seen anything like what we experienced with Sandy," said Fox Realty Rental Manager Clay Rossiter.
"For Ocean City, it was one of the worst storms we've seen," said James Mallon, Ocean City Director of Community Services.
While the storm left a lot of destruction, not all of the Jersey Shore was destroyed. In Ocean City, the ferris wheel is still intact, and so is the boardwalk. "We're in very good shape," said Mallon, "Our boardwalk is in great shape; the amusement park is fine; the miniature golf course is open; the pizza places are ready; we're selling carnival popcorn; everything's ready to roll."
At Fox Realty, it's crunch time! "This time of year is critical," said Rossiter, "Especially this year, after Sandy, with people coming down and realizing that we are still in great shape and we're going to have a great summer."
But not everyone is getting that message. Rossiter says business is down this year. "It's a city-wide situation," he said, "I think it's maybe us being lumped into the north part of Jersey. People thinking that we were devastated as well."
In fact, Ocean City's beaches will soon look even better than before. The Army Corps of Engineers is in the middle of a major restoration project. "It was lucky in a sense that we had it timed for right now, because we did lose some sand and now all that will be pumped back onto our beaches," said Mallon.
Holly Kisby hopes something else will be pumped back into the beach...money. She runs Shriver's Salt Water Taffy shop on the boardwalk. She still gets calls from people wondering if it's open. "I think we were all pretty grateful that everything was safe and sound up here on the boardwalk," she said.
Her own home was a different story, which is part of the reason she wants people back at the beach. "There is devastation in this town," she said, "There are still people getting their feet back on the ground, but most of the businesses have worked really hard to be open, and people need to know that."
Rossiter says it's still not too late to book your trip. "A lot of properties that would have been booked solid still have some very prime weeks to rent," he said, "It's very encouraging for a late season this year."
"We are open, and we're ready for business," said Mallon, "It's going to be the Ocean City that people have come to love and enjoy for many years."
While a lot of progress has been made along part of the Jersey Shore, there is still work left to be done. The beach revitalization project should be finished in time for the summer vacation season.
The northern beaches of New Jersey were certainly hit much harder than the southern ones. Some thought the usual visitors to those beaches would rush south, but Rossiter says that hasn't been the case. He says most of his business comes from Pennsylvania. Depending on the house, renting one for the week can cost anywhere from $800 to $15,000.