Last updated: February 19. 2013 2:46PM - 926 Views

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Even hours before a strengthening Hurricane Sandy was set to strike, Atlantic City was already getting battered so badly that chunks of the boardwalk were being ripped away by the strong surge.

Some residents who had not evacuated or sought out a shelter were beginning to panic. Major streets were flooded. Early on, a section of boardwalk already in disrepair gave way. But other sections followed.

An 80 foot section of the Boardwalk at Atlantic Avenue and New Hampshire Avenue in Atlantic City was destroyed by the pounding surf. All that remained was a pile of wood and rubble, according to an Atlantic City Public Works employee.

Most of the damage early on was toward the inlet. By 11 a.m., waves were seen crashing over the boardwalk, with big sections gone missing.

One section of boardwalk was found a block away -- and high tide wonâ??t come again until tonight at the apex of the storm.

Water was coming in unchecked from the inlet, rushing over the seawall. Waves pounded the beach and the entrances to the boardwalk were flooded and impassable.

Three shelters are reported full as Atlantic Avenue was already flooded with three feet of water at 7 a.m. and it was increasingly impossible to drive.

Strong winds battered the boardwalk making it hard to stand. Emergency workers tried to get some of the homeless to leave but a few stubbornly stayed on their benches, at least until the worst of the storm arrives later today.

The Atlantic City Fire Department was responding all morning to various fires, complaints about gas odor, and just people wanting to get out.

Fire officials said they could no longer respond to all calls and were urging people to get to shelters.

Several thousand residents of Atlantic City were said to be without transportation.

Elsewhere in South Jersey, Burlington County officials declared a state of emergency to give its Office of Emergency Management the authority to whatever it needs to protect residents and their properties. The government offices will be closed through Thursday.

Currently, only nine people in Florence and two in Medford have reported to emergency shelters. Officials are taking precautions since the Rancocas Creek historically floods land in Northern Burlington County during major storms.

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