With the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy looming, thousands of residents throughout the state are still unable to return home after being displaced by the storm.

Ortley Beach, NJ
Residents of Ortley Beach, NJ watch their home get demolished (Mark Wilson, Getty Images)

In Ocean County, one of the hardest hit counties, the numbers of displace residents is staggering. According to planning director Dave McKeon, roughly between 20 to 25,000 people are still displaced, but that only accounts for people in the system for assistance.

“We know there are a lot of residents that are not on specific assistance and aren’t on anyone’s data base, they’re doing their own thing to get back into their homes, so we know that number is higher,” said McKeon.

According to McKeon, people who are paying for another place to live out-of-pocket, or remain with relatives or friends, often aren’t counted since they’re not listed for assistance programs.  As a result, there is no possible way to know how many displaced people there are, but the numbers from the Federal Emergency Management Agency give them a decent overview of the situation.

McKeon acknowledged it may seem shocking for some to see how many people are still displaced 11 months after the storm, however he says it exemplifies the devastation in communities like Ortley Beach, Lavallette, Beach Haven West, and parts of Toms River saw.

“A lot of people who weren’t directly impacted by Sandy who look around now and see anything in their community are surprised, but for the people who were there since day one, I don’t think it’s very surprising.” Adding they foresaw the damage being long lasting. “The thousands and thousands of units that were affected and for the thousands of families that were affected, there’s no quick solution. Some people were able to get into their home a little quicker but I think from the beginning people knew it would be years for everyone to be taken care of.”

He attributed the delays in rebuilding to confusion over flood maps, people previously not qualifying for assistance programs, and other logistical issues with construction.

“If some of those units are built very dense, it’s very difficult to raise units when they’re very tightly packed, so they have additional issues to worry about.”

He said it could be several years before all of those displaced by Sandy are fully able to return.


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