By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
The ranch-style home at the corner of 67th Street and Landis Avenue is distinctive not only for its bright pink color, but also because of the canopy of trees surrounding the property.
But now, four of those big trees are leaning precariously against the quaint house – blown over by powerful winds unleashed Tuesday by Tropical Storm Isaias as it moved through Sea Isle City with destructive force.
Authorities said the owners of the home escaped without injury. It wasn’t immediately clear whether the house suffered extensive damage.
Throughout Sea Isle, trees, awnings and utility lines were blown down as wind gusts topped 60 mph at the height of the storm Tuesday morning. The low-lying barrier island, which is usually susceptible to stormwater, escaped with only minor street flooding.
“The flooding was minor for Sea Isle,” Police Chief Tom McQuillen said. “The wind damage was the biggest threat. There were quite a few trees down.”
“Really, it was a big wind event,” he added. “Almost all of the damage was wind-related.”
McQuillen said he was crossing his fingers that the storm would not intensify later in the day and hit Sea Isle even harder.
“It could always be worse,” he said. “To this point, no one was injured as a result of the storm.”
The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado was spotted Tuesday morning in the neighboring towns of Strathmere and Marmora, causing damage to some homes and vehicles.
A stretch of the Garden State Parkway southbound at Milepost 24 in the Marmora area was littered with large trees literally sheared in two by the storm. Using chainsaws and wood chippers, work crews cleared away the trees and broken branches as traffic squeezed by on the parkway’s shoulder lane.
As the storm moved up the coast after battering parts of the Carolinas with hurricane-force winds, tornado warnings and flash flood warnings were posted for the Jersey Shore.
In Sea Isle, police were busy keeping motorists and pedestrians away from areas where live electric wires were blown down. A utility pole fell over between the Andrea Trattoria and Oar House restaurants at the corner of 42nd Place and Park Road.
Bystanders gathered across the street from the pink home at 67th Street and Landis Avenue to look in amazement at the uprooted trees enveloping the house.
“The wind was ripping, for sure. The rain wasn’t too bad, but the wind was no joke,” said Bob Roda, a resident of 67th Street who lives four doors down from the pink house.
Roda and his wife, Allison, were relieved that the homeowners were not injured. The names of the owners were not immediately released by authorities, but a police official said they safely evacuated the home and were staying at another house.
Powerful winds caused damage to other homes on 67th Street. Large pieces of siding were ripped off a house at 122 W. 67th Street.
“It was like a loud banging noise on the outside of the house,” said Mark Rostick, a vacationer who is renting 122 W. 67th from his friend, Steve Clark.
Rostick noted that Clark was far more concerned with the safety of everyone inside the house than the damaged siding.
“He said, ‘Just be safe, don’t go outside. Make sure you watch out for the flooding,’” Rostick said.
Tropical Storm Isaias arrived just three weeks after Tropical Storm Fay dumped heavy rain and caused widespread flooding at the Jersey Shore on July 10.
“We’ve had two tropical storms in one summer. It’s a first. Hopefully, it’s a last,” said Mike Jargowsky, Sea Isle’s emergency management coordinator.
The storm churned up the ocean with rough surf and dangerous rip currents. Authorities said rip currents are expected to last at least through Wednesday. They are urging beachgoers to swim only in areas protected by lifeguards.
During the storm, pools of water inundated some of Sea Isle’s newly replenished beaches between 28th and 52nd streets in the midsection of town. Extra sand was added to the beaches in the past two weeks to repair erosion caused by another coastal storm last October.
Hayden Glick and his girlfriend, Katarina Corsino, vacationers from Pennsylvania, stood on the pathway to the beach at John F. Kennedy Boulevard and were amazed by the strength of the storm.
“I’ve been coming here my whole life and I’ve never seen it this wet,” Corsino said of the flooded beaches.
Glick, who had been in Florida once before during a hurricane, was experiencing his first ever tropical storm at the Jersey Shore.
“This is crazy,” he said while looking at the rough surf.
Sea Isle Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who was out surveying the damage, issued a statement Tuesday evening saying that the most significant concern in the aftermath of the storm is the loss of electricity.
He noted the city is working with Atlantic City Electric, Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration and U.S. Sen. Corey Booker’s office to get power restored as quickly as possible.
“Additionally, I have been in direct communication with Governor Murphy, who has assured me that we will receive all assistance necessary in order to expedite the repairs,” Desiderio said.
The mayor urged anyone who is in need of electricity for medical reasons, such as for oxygen, should make alternative arrangements. Anyone in need of urgent medical assistance or the police should call 911, he said.
Sea Isle officials are also asking residents to call the police department at (609) 263-4311 to report any downed power lines.