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Battered by Sandy, New Jersey faces long road back

February 19. 2013 4:50PM
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HACKENSACK, N.J. -- With boardwalks in splinters, roads buckled and houses knocked on their sides, Gov. Chris Christie and local officials have vowed to move quickly on the largest rebuilding effort in state history to return the Jersey Shore to the bustling vacation spot and economic engine that it was before Superstorm Sandy.

But anyone expecting a return to normal by summer will be disappointed.

Disaster experts and officials from communities across the nation that have been devastated by hurricanes say the rebuilding effort can be excruciatingly slow.

It will be years before you can declare things recovered, said Michael Liffmann, a former assistant director of Louisiana's Sea Grant program who witnessed that state's recovery after Hurricane Katrina. It's years, I promise. I'm sorry, but it won't be fast.

Sandy smashed through all 49 towns along New Jersey's 127-mile coastline from Sea Bright to Cape May with the worst damage in Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Rebuilding efforts could face a litany of hurdles including disputes over insurance payouts, a shortage of building supplies and skilled labor from the enormous demand, an influx of unscrupulous contractors, construction schedules cut short by a frigid winter and slow approval process by building departments flooded with permit requests, officials warn. Residents face the prospects of a surge in insurance premiums and building costs that could price some out of even the most blue-collar of Jersey Shore towns, say officials who rebuilt other devastated communities.

Two weeks after Sandy made landfall, the rebuilding effort is in its infancy. Officials are still trying to meet the basic needs of displaced residents. The full scope of the destruction - how many homes were damaged, how many businesses disrupted, the damage to bridges and other infrastructure -- has not even been tallied, although one group that advises insurers about catastrophes, EQECAT, estimates Sandy caused $30 billion to $50 billion in damage to the tri-state area.

On a tour of hard-hit Seaside Heights, Christie said that today the state would begin developing a long-term plan for rebuilding homes and businesses, restoring the state's most iconic shore attractions and protecting and reconstructing the beaches.

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