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Stranded at the boardwalk during Sandy

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My 17-year-old cousin, Vincent Storino, was one of the 11 people who were trapped at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J. during the worst of superstorm Sandy.

Vincent, a junior at Point Pleasant Beach High School and volunteer fireman, waited out the storm with his father (my uncle) and Chris Stewart, the human resources director of our family-run amusement park Jenkinson’s. Vincent said that he arrived at the boardwalk at 4:30 a.m. on Monday.

“I wanted to help my dad, and I spend so much time at the boardwalk that I had to try to protect it,” Vincent said.

First you have to try get an idea of the layout. The main parking lot for the amusement park section of Jenkinson’s has a ramp that leads to the boardwalk. If you face the ocean, to the left is a building with an arcade, the offices, and a roof-top mini golf course. To the right sits the carousel and the rest of the rides. Keep walking straight and you will hit the main drag of the boardwalk and the beach. Below the arcade is another ramp that goes down to the basement, which is home base for the maintenance crew.

Around 6 p.m. that night, they went down to the basement of the main office building to man the backup gas-powered pumps, which failed because they were filled with sand. The power had already gone out, so this is all happening in the dark.

“High tide was at about 8 p.m., and that’s when the water really started rushing in,” Vincent said.

Vincent described a hole in the basement where the water was rushing in. They started using large garbage cans on hand trucks to try to keep up with the water. They would push the heavy cans, which filled in about a minute, up the ramp to ground level, dump over the sandbags stacked three-high surrounding the ramp, and then repeat. After about 45 minutes, Vincent (who is about 5’3) said the water had reached his knees, and they were not keeping up.

“We had already determined that, if the sandbags were breeched, we would go up to the office,” Vincent explained.

The flooding was steadily getting worse, so they decided at about 9 p.m. to head up the stairs in the back to the office on the second floor. However, they took a detour out onto the boardwalk instead of heading to the safety of the office.

“We shouldn’t have gone out there,” Vincent admits. But they did. And at this point the water was up to the boardwalk. They saw a wave come and buckled the boards in front of them. Thankfully, this was enough to drive them to get back to the office.

Another one of my uncles tried to rescue them at one point with a truck from the fire station, but the streets were already too flooded for him to get through.

Vincent says he actually slept—I know I wouldn’t have been able to. All but one of the windows in the office were hurricane-proof, and they had boarded up the one that was not. They slept on two couches and an air mattress.

“I wasn’t terrified, but I was nervous about something hitting the windows we were sleeping by,” he said. “It felt like we were cut off from people because our building was surrounded by water.”  

The next morning, it had stopped raining and they ventured onto the boardwalk again. They saw that the end of Martell’s pier had broken off and was now lying behind Risden’s beach house, some 1,500 feet away. Vincent said that they knew it was a piece of Martell’s because the trunk of a couple of the Tiki Bar’s famous neon orange palm trees were still attached.