When Hurricane Sandy devastated the Sewaren waterfront, Cliff Road was full of gawkers and sightseers, all with cameras to take pictures of the boats piled up like discarded toys.
But a few blocks away, the more modest homes on Sewaren's side streets experienced up to 6 ft. of devastation as branches of the Woodbridge River flooded from the storm surge.
On S. Robert Street in Sewaren, Blake Rutherford counts himself fortunate. The foundation of his renovated home is still intact. He can't say the same for his neighbor.
"This is what happened during the storm," Rutherford said as he pointed to a gaping hole in what used to be the enclosed basement of his neighbor's home.
The storm surge lifted up Rutherford's fence and forced opened his neighbor's garage doors. A van still parked in the street had water marks on the windows just a few inches shy of the roof.
Bright orange signs in the front windows of homes on S. Robert Street and Sewaren Avenue mark that they are unsafe to inhabit. House after house has the foundation destroyed, or has the huge openings covered with tarps to try and keep the weather out.
"People don't know how bad it is here," Rutherford said.
He and his neighbors are exhausted from the work of trying to clean up the huge mess Sandy left in her wake.
Rutherford said that there have been a few intrepid tourists coming on to his property to take pictures. He's said he's getting at the end of his patience.
"I asked one if he was here to help. He said no, he's here to take pictures. I told him to get off my property," Rutherford said.
'We need help'
The Sewaren homeowners could use some help with the devastation.
"They have this 'Christmas in July' thing," Rutherford said, referring to a program the township runs where volunteers help repair homes for township residents who are handicapped or in need. "Why can't we have 'Christmas in November'? We could use the help."
Rutherford said Mayor John McCormac stopped by Saturday, right before he was due to attend the Halloween festivities he had rescheduled at the Woodbridge Community Center.
"He said he'd be back," Rutherford said. "He drove up in his car."
Meanwhile, Rutherford and his neighbors are hoping the NJ Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will do tests on the water that flooded their homes.
Rutherford, who had been stuck in his basement as the storm surge gushed into his home, was soaked. His leather wallet bears salt water marks from his brush with drowning.
"Who knows what's in that water? What other things the hurricane dredged up?" he said. "We'd like to know if our homes are safe for our families."
UPDATE: The Rutherford family thanks everyone for their outpouring of support and help. They are waiting for their insurance adjuster to make a visit to the home, so until further notice, they will not be needing any additional help.