By Donald Wittkowski
Janet Cooper was using a spray hose Tuesday to clean up soggy clumps of mulch that had washed away from other people’s yards and made a mess of the sidewalk in front of her home on 44th Street.
Across the street at the corner of 44th Street and Venicean Road, Jeff Beshel and his wife, Jeanette, were trying to dry out the waterlogged garage at their aunt and uncle’s bayfront home.
Flooding caused by a surprisingly powerful coastal storm over the weekend left parts of Sea Isle City, including the neighborhood of 44th Street and Venicean Road, swamped with water.
“This was a severe storm. It kind of snuck up on us,” City Councilman Jack Gibson said.
Noting that “a lot” of people got stuck on 44th Street and Venicean Road in the flooding, Gibson wants the city to look into the possibility of raising those streets to protect the neighborhood from future storms.
“I think there are a lot of people who could benefit from that, not just the residents,” Gibson said during Tuesday’s Council meeting.
Gibson, who lives on Venicean Road, asked City Business Administrator George Savastano to see if the project would be possible and how much it would cost.
Gibson wants it added to the city’s newly completed flooding study, a document that includes a comprehensive strategy to protect the low-lying barrier island from stormwater, but has not yet been released to the public.
Venicean Road is a narrow cul-de-sac that winds through a neighborhood of bayfront homes. It dead ends at the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City, a popular boating and social hub for the community. Venicean connects with 44th Street a stone’s throw from the back bay.
During the Council meeting, Gibson suggested that 44th Street and Venicean Road might be raised similar to the intersection of 44th Street and Park Road to ease flooding.
However, some residents of 44th Street and Venicean Road wondered whether raising the roads might actually make things worse by redirecting floodwater off the streets and onto their property.
“I don’t want it raised. You’ll just cause property damage,” said Janet Cooper, who has lived in a duplex at 377 East 44th Street for 22 years.
Cooper said the only time she has suffered flooding inside her house was during Hurricane Floyd in 1999, Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the severe coastal storm named Jonas in 2016.
She suggested that the city should instead concentrate on fixing the flooding that she said regularly occurs on 44th Street in front of the Anchorage Marina, about a block from her house.
“Everyone sits there in their car and has to wait for the water to go down,” Cooper said of flooding near the marina.
Jeff and Jeanette Beshel, custodians of their aunt and uncle’s house at 4400 Venicean Road, explained that the neighborhood is often flooded by storms. They said floodwaters from the weekend storm soaked the duplex garage and also seeped into the entryway of the home.
“We got six inches of water in the garage. We’re used to that,” Jeff Beshel said while the couple cleaned out the wet garage on Tuesday.
Beshel pointed to the garage doors, which he said were damaged by wakes of water caused when cars were speeding through the flooding. The garage doors had been replaced only two weeks earlier because of damage from other storms, he noted.
“The depth of the water causes tidal waves and smashes in our garage doors,” Beshel said.
Like Cooper, the Beshels want to see something done to alleviate flooding in the neighborhood. But they are worried that if 44th Street and Venicean Road are raised or crowned, the floodwaters would simply pour off the street and end up on their property.
“It could cause even more damage,” Jeff Beshel said.
The Beshels and Cooper stressed that they would like to hear more information from the city before any decisions are made whether to raise the roads.