Residents of Pelican Island's have been cleared by officials to return to their homes, but the still-significant destruction and ongoing restoration efforts are keeping neighborhoods largely empty and abandoned, for now at least.
On Thursday morning, a day after Toms River Mayor Tom Kelaher announced that the island's residents would be the first township residents allowed to move back into their barrier island homes following Hurricane Sandy, Pelican Island remained mostly empty, save for some contractors and a scant few homeowners.
Berkeley Township Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. announced late yesterday that residents in the Berkeley section of Pelican Island would be allowed to return home.
But unlike the Toms River section, all utilities - water, sewer, gas and electric service - had been restored to the Berkeley side.
Many homes in neighborhoods on either side of Route 37 remain gutted after surging flood waters from Sandy entered their homes. Some homeowners, like Don Puzio, who owns a rental property on the island, and Larry Dorr, who lives directly on the water, did not see as much damage from Sandy thanks to their homes being elevated.
Still, work needs to be done before even their homes are back to where they once were.
Cars destroyed by flood waters were still being removed Thursday and while much of the debris pulled out of homes after Sandy has been pulled away, Puzio said, many sidewalks and parts of some streets are still littered with trash, wood, and insulation.