As Hurricane Sandy charged toward the United States, it visited the worst of its fury on New Jersey’s coastal strip, a stretch of beaches, boardwalks and bedroom communities that serve as getaway spots for residents of the nation’s most-populated region.
From the 1920s speakeasies of Atlantic City to the tawdry arcades of 1970s Asbury Park; from the doo-wop of the Drifters to the glam rock of Bon Jovi; from the boardwalk nightclubs to the rolling surf on a hot afternoon and, yes, even a certain MTV reality television show, the state’s waterfront has left an indelible mark on American popular culture.
And much of that waterfront was swept out to sea this week, buried under piles of sand and flotsam, or left in ruins.
President Barack Obama immediately pledged to help rebuild the area, then flew over Wednesday to survey the destruction. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, meanwhile, summed up the mood.
“It was an overwhelming afternoon for me, emotionally, as a kid who was born and raised in this state,” he said. “No question in my mind, we’ll rebuild it. But for those of us who are my age, it won’t be the same. It’ll be different, because many of the iconic things that made it what it was are … washed into the ocean.”
“The Jersey Shore of my youth is gone,” he later tweeted.
Famous for: Founded as a resort for New Yorkers in the late 19th century, it struggled with urban decay in the postwar period before undergoing a series of revitalization projects in the past decade. A mecca for music, its clubs are associated with nearly every major act to come out of the Garden State.
Icon: Born in nearby Long Branch, Bruce Springsteen launched his career playing Asbury’s bars. The Boss immortalized the location in song; My City of Ruins describes the town’s decline, while 4th of July, Asbury Park painted an unvarnished picture of life on the shore.
Damage: Winds pulled the doors straight off the convention hall and ripped up trees. Flood waters, meanwhile, washed out pieces of New Jersey Transit’s Coast Line, severing a vital link that ferried tourists there for decades.
Quote: “Down in town, the circuit’s full with switchblade lovers, so fast, so shiny, so sharp / And the wizards play down on Pinball Way, on the boardwalk way past dark / And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open, like Latin lovers along the shore.” – Bruce Springsteen, 4th of July, Asbury Park, coincidentally subtitled Sandy.
Famous for: With opulent hotels in the early days, easy access to booze during Prohibition and many casinos today, AC’s image has veered between playground and honey-trap for the tourists who sustain the local economy.
Icon: The city’s Republican Party boss for three decades, Enoch (Nucky) Johnson got rich by turning a blind eye to bootleggers and prostitutes during Prohibition, and taking a cut from their trade. By the time he was imprisoned for tax evasion in 1941, he was one of the country’s longest-lasting crime bosses.
Damage: Sandy made landfall near the city, tearing up chunks of the famous boardwalk and blowing them 40 metres inland. Much of the city was plunged under water even before the hurricane reached the shore, prompting some of the most extensive evacuations in the state.
Quote: “Nobody’s mother lives in Atlantic City on a Saturday.” – Lauren Bacall in How to Marry a Millionaire, referring to the city’s less-than-wholesome reputation.
Famous for: It’s not quite Hawaii, but the mix of warm sand and big waves beckons surfers to Belmar’s slice of the coast, while the thumping music of its bars keeps the party going after dusk.
Icon: Douglas McMurtrie, a designer for Condè Nast in the 1920s, helped shape the era’s look, developing jazzy typefaces and helping to launch The New Yorker.
Damage: Waves tore over the beach, flooding streets and turning houses into hundreds of mini-islands. In some spots, residents took to kayaks to navigate the town.
Quote: “I said to the mayor when I walked up: ‘I liked it here much better in the summer.’ ”
– Governor Christie, as he stood amid the damage along the town’s coastline.
Famous for: A strategic location astride a shipping channel ensured the town’s early economic prosperity; today it is better known for its marina.
Icon: An athletic youth growing up on the shore, Leonard (Bud) Lomell became one of the great heroes of the Second World War when, on D-Day, he discovered and disabled five of the Germans’ largest artillery pieces, easing the Allied landing.
Damage: The waters were so strong, they lifted vehicles off the roads and dropped them in peoples’ yards. One bridge was nearly washed away and, in the wealthy nearby community of Mantoloking, ruptured fuel lines set houses ablaze.
Quote: “The boats were coming off their pilings one by one and floating down the street. It was eerie. I watched one come in and boards [from the fence] fly up,” resident Kathleen McGuinness, quoted by the Newark Star-Ledger on watching the storm waters lift boats and slam them into her vinyl fence.
Famous for: On the Barnegat Peninsula, a narrow strip that shields the mainland from the open sea, Seaside’s amusement park rides and hucksters give the town the feel of an old-time carnival.
Icon: Who else? She may be from the Hudson Valley in New York, but Nicole Polizzi – “Snooki” – and her reality-television co-stars have given the town of Seaside Heights a national profile with their partying, flirting and arguing.
Damage: Entire buildings, including a steak house, were washed away by the crashing sea. When the waters receded, they left piles of sand covering the streets and surrounding houses.
Quote: “Anything to help the people effected [sic] by this storm, including my own hometown, etc. I will be helping the Jersey Shore get back together altogether. This is my home.” – Snooki’s co-star, Sammi Giancola, on Twitter.