It's hard to understand the love affair people in the metro Philadelphia area have with our South Jersey shore towns if you're not from around here. Each of the towns has its own personality, and you develop your attachment early. Mine started with Wildwood, where my parents used to take us (or as I call it now, "Las Vegas By The Sea"). Not because there's gambling (you have to go to Atlantic City for that), but because it's got the biggest, brightest, gaudiest neon boardwalk of them all.
We were poor, and I have no idea how my parents managed that week down the shore every summer. Our fun was limited, and we didn't understand why we couldn't go on the rides every night, or get a pizza if we wanted. But it didn't really matter. We were at The Shore!
And Atlantic City? That's where our elderly parents like to go on day trips: $20 on the slots, the casino's cheap buffet lunch, and a walk on the boardwalk before they get on the bus to come home. Ocean City is a nice quiet place because it doesn't allow liquor, and that's where I took my kids when they were little. Their boardwalk wasn't as imposing as Wildwood's, and the amusement rides weren't as big and scary. (It's also where my late parents rented a summer place after my dad retired, and my kids spent much of their summers with them.)
How much do Philadelphians love the shore? Let me put it this way: The most romantic thing I've ever seen was a man whose wife so loved the shore, he built her a beautiful scale model of Wildwood for their 25th anniversary.
Avalon. Sea Isle City. Atlantic City. Margate. Ventnor. Each town with their own kind of summer magic, and watching on TV as they disappeared under the hurricane waves made me cry like a baby -- and I haven't even stayed at the Jersey shore in over a decade. But so many wonderful memories are gone with the waves:
LONGPORT, N.J.--Many residents of the New Jersey coast woke up to a gray windy morning with no electricity, swamped homes, water surging in the streets -- and another high tide threatening additional flooding.
The Jersey Shore, including Atlantic City, remained under water, without power and was “completely unsafe,” said Gov. Chris Christie during a televised news conference. He recited a litany of destruction including homes knocked off their foundations, beach erosion and amusement park rides pushed into the sea.
“The level of devastation on the Jersey Shore is unthinkable,” he said.
Cyclone Sandy blew ashore just south of Atlantic City, demolishing a section of the city's famous boardwalk and scattering some of the planks through the city's streets.
Historic high tidal surges filled the downtown streets with knee-high water, and other roads were inundated by up to 6 feet of water at the height of the storm.
More than 2.4 million people were without electricity throughout the state and it could take eight days or longer for full power to be restored, Christie said.
The state's transit system remains closed with "major damage on each and every one of the New Jersey" rail lines, the governor said. Large sections of track are washed or blocked with downed power lines and debris.
South Jersey, a part of the state that includes small beach towns and farming communities, was particularly hard hit.
"This area is pretty devastated," said James Lees of Longport, a beachfront town south of Atlantic City. "There's sand everywhere, a lot of water in garages. Down toward the southern end, they got hammered."