While so many others are in supermarket lines, wondering the order of what to cook and prep first for Thanksgiving, many Ortley Beach families are contemplating lines to get into the Hurricane Sandy ravaged barrier island, wondering how to drag furniture and belongings from homes they still have limited access to.
The Black Friday opening of the bridge for families in Ortley Beach has further interrupted a holiday season that is forever changed, as residents try to rebuild and salvage their homes.
Linda, who lives on the bayside portion of Ortley Beach, is one. She spent Tuesday looking for friends capable of the heavy lifting of furniture, who’d want to give up a day off and trade it for manual labor. They’d have to wake up early after Thanksgiving, cram into her pick-up truck, get in the gridlock across the Route 37 bridge, and carefully join her on the drive to their home.
First, move the furniture. Pack it into a trailer attached to their vehicle. Drive the vehicle back over the bridge to friends possibly waiting by a rental U-Haul truck. Those kinds of trucks are not allowed on the precarious streets that officials said were built narrow, and now are made narrower by hurricane debris. There’s also possible sinkholes.
So, after driving a hitch full of their furniture, Linda and two others will unpack the trailer’s contents into a U-Haul, if they can find one to rent, and then attempt to get back over the eastbound bridge to clean up and winterize their home.
That’s the second push. Get the furniture out so it’s easier to clean up and trash anything else. They’re relying on some helping hands to get as much done as possible.
They, and so many other Ortley Beach residents, have a lot to do. And they have to do it all before 2 p.m.
At that hour, everyone is ordered off the island. Without electricity, it’s the hour to start getting back before darkness sets. The lines will build as vehicles creep off the island and onto westbound Route 37 back to mainland Toms River.
Linda is trying to figure out the plan. If she can't find the help, or the U-Haul, she'll attack the endless chore of saving her possessions from a possible onslaught of mold.
How do you figure out the priority in all this? And up against a deadline?
"We're discussing our priorities for Friday and I think the main thing should be getting all the wet and damaged stuff out of the house so the mold can stop forming," said Linda. "As much as I want to get all our furniture out, we will be limited with time."
This section of Ortley Beach is not the first group to be allowed to drive their own vehicles over the bridge and tend to the long list of things to do after a hurricane ravages your home.
Officials from Toms River, Lavallette, Seaside Heights and Seaside Park have crafted plans — many called Phase 3 — where residents are able to drive themselves and spend limited time at home, cleaning up, meeting with contractors or insurance adjusters, and just trying to make sense of the mess.
Previously, barrier island residents as part of Phases 1 and 2 were bussed in and given an hour to “grab and go,” carrying a suitcase or other bag that could sit on your lap, and filling it with necessary items. "Phase 3" concludes for Ortley Beach next week. The timeline for return after that has not been announced.
For Friday, as those unaffected by the disaster figure out which Thanksgiving leftovers to eat first, Ortley Beach residents will be wearing heavy duty clothes and boots — the kind you wouldn't mind getting ditry or destroyed in the mess. Wearing safety gloves and masks will protect from the mold.
It’s Tuesday. There’s a lot to left figure out, there’s a lot of rules to follow, and the heavy lifting hasn’t begun. What size U-Haul do they need? Where should they tell their helpers to meet them, and when?
And what’s next?