Jersey Shore Reduced to Rubble as National Guard Steps In

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The town of Seaside Heights, made famous through the MTV reality show, was one of the barrier island communities destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. A photographer takes a closer look.

When Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey, it decimated communities on the Ocean County barrier island, ripping down power lines and tearing beach houses from their foundations. The Seaside Heights boardwalk, made famous through the MTV reality show Jersey Shore, has been destroyed, and all of the bars featured on the program are flooded. The only bridge that allows access to the island is behind a police checkpoint, and after the island's gas and water were shut off this weekend, most of the remaining citizens evacuated.

On Saturday and Sunday, I was embedded with the Ocean County prosecutors as they documented the storm's damage like a crime scene. Soldiers from the New Jersey National Guard patrolled the island with officers from the sheriff's department, strongly advising the few remaining residents to leave. Among the last holdouts were Daisy and Many Colon, who rode out the storm with their dog, Travis. They insisted that they had food and water and would be fine at home. But once they were told the gas might not be turned on again for months, they took the National Guard up on its offer of a ride to the evacuation point.

In general, the Guard and officers avoided confrontation throughout the weekend, letting the most stubborn residents remain where they were as long as they could prove they lived there. Despite reports that the area has been placed under martial law, I saw no officials ordering citizens to evacuate, though that possibility hasn't been ruled out for the near future.

Meanwhile, no city on the island has been spared, and officials are already estimating that the damage may add up to $1 billion. The beach communities that were sheltered by sand dunes sustained the least damage. But many of the more upscale properties were entirely vulnerable, with no dunes blocking their views of the sea. As a result, vast numbers of these homes were entirely destroyed.

Several homes in the two-block-wide city of Mantoloking are now adrift in the bay. An area in the township of Brick was still smoldering on Sunday from a natural gas fire that had erupted nearly a week earlier. Supervisor Detective Jim Hill of the Ocean County's Prosecutors Office remarked that the area resembled a war zone, a sentiment shared by many as they surveyed the remains of their homes.

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Julie Dermansky is a multimedia reporter and artist based in New Orleans. She is an affiliate scholar at Rutgers University's Center for the Study of Genocide and Human Rights. Visit her website at www.jsdart.com.

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