The arrival of what some forecasters were calling “Frankenstorm,” was a quiet one, particularly after last year’s arrival of Tropical Storm Irene. This reporter, who reported on Irene, also wrote a recent story on the ’62 nor’easter that had devastated the island. This led me to get involved with the Community Emergency Response Team – a volunteer program that is part of FEMA. After all, we are a barrier island.
This past Monday morning I contacted Lt. Jim Bennett, Brigantine’s director of emergency management, and told him that I was prepared to report in at 8 a.m. I was informed that the city was not going to open the emergency evacuation center at the Brigantine Beach Community Center so I was to stand down and await further direction.
However, 45 minutes later I was directed to get over and open up the center for evacuees. As I walked in, I was followed by Denise Ford – the first of approximately 200 people that followed on that Monday.
What I experienced over the last week was amazing. All Brigantine residents had been advised by Gov. Christie that all barrier islands were in a state of mandatory evacuation. But, after Irene’s weak visit last year, many residents decided to “ride it out.”
What a mistake. As a result they put themselves and the island’s first responders in harm’s way.
I was told to expect about 40 to 50 people. That night, at the height of the storm, we had almost 200 “guests” at the Brigantine Waldorf Astoria – with only enough cots for 45. Denise, Tom and Sandy, evacuees themselves, became our check in staff. Young Jake became the “vice president of cots”; Faith was the “vice president of blankets.”