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Surprise Storm Washes Away Sand Meant for Replenishment

Scott Evans, Atlantic City's fire chief and emergency management coordinator, said the city saw moderate erosion toward the area in front of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Casino Resort.

(TNS) - North Wildwood was ready for Memorial Day weekend: It had stockpiled millions of tons of sand at a cost of $4 million to replenish its beaches in time for vacationers, said Mayor Patrick Rosenello.

But nature had other ideas over Mother's Day weekend.

The storm that pounded the region through Sunday and continued churning surf on Monday ate almost a third of that stockpile — a possible loss of more than $1 million, according to Rosenello.

"You don't plan for a winter storm to hit the first week of May," Rosenello quipped. "This disrupts our plan."

Indeed, though the nor'easter that ripped along the coast was forecast, it still came as a blow for North Wildwood and possibly other communities.

Marty Pagliughi, the mayor of Avalon and emergency management coordinator for Cape May County, said his office was still assessing the impact of the storm and won't have a full grasp until Thursday or Friday. Overall, however, he was not getting reports of "catastrophic damage" along the coast.

As of Monday, when strong currents were still battering beaches, Pagliughi said initial reports are that damages are "typical" for a nor'easter.

"Most of the towns will still be doing survey work" Monday and Tuesday, Pagliughi said.

Scott Evans, Atlantic City's fire chief and emergency management coordinator, said the city saw moderate erosion, mostly at the north end of the beach, toward the area in front of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and Ocean Casino Resort. Evans said he thinks beaches will be fine by Memorial Day.

The city, which underwent a beach replenishment project last year, is scheduled for another project next year under the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Due to the replenishment from last year," Evans said, "we do have some sand in reserve. But it's still a serious issue we have with storms in the north end of town."

The stockpile in North Wildwood, however, was as vulnerable as a giant sand castle when the nor'easter struck. It roared with 50 mph wind gusts, bringing in chilly air and flooding rains. Ocean City recorded a gust of 59 mph on Saturday.

Rosenello wasn't far off when he referred to it as a winter storm. The storm that occurred Saturday saw the lowest maximum temperature for May 7 in the Philadelphia region in 55 years. It was the chilliest May 8 in 75 years.

Rosenello said his community was tackling its own beach replenishment, as it has for years, because it is not scheduled for such a project funded by the state or U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

So a contractor for North Wildwood had begun scraping 350,000 cubic yards of sand off the beaches of Wildwood as far back as January and February. Trucks dumped the sand in North Wildwood, creating a stockpile to eventually be spread from Second Avenue and John F. Kennedy Beach Drive to 16th Street, in what Rosenello describes as "the heart of town."

"So we lost a big chunk of the sand we had brought up for our project," Rosenello said Monday afternoon. "Probably a third of it. But the ocean is still churning and pretty angry. We have to wait for it to calm down to assess the whole situation. We're under the gun. We have only three work weeks to get it all distributed."

Because North Wildwood is handling the project on its own, local taxpayers are paying for it. North Wildwood had already distributed the sand on about five beach blocks before the storm hit.

Rosenello said he believes the majority of the work will be complete by Memorial Day weekend. He said it's possible much of the sand is just off the beach and could create a sandbar. As a result, some could find its way back onto the beach. And some sunbathers might have to sit next to large piles of sand until they are fully graded.

"There will be plenty of places to access the beach by Memorial Day weekend," Rosenello said. "Certain blocks will be impacted more than others."


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