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Assessing Damages As Winter Storm Blows Over

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This weekend's winter storm has moved on, but not before leaving some record flooding along with all that snow. One of the hardest-hit places was Cape May, N.J., where water levels topped those of Superstorm Sandy. Gerald Thornton is an official with Cape May County. He joins me now on the line. Thanks so much for talking with us.

GERALD THORNTON: You're welcome.

MARTIN: What does the morning look like in Cape May today?

THORNTON: Well, fortunately this morning looks a lot better, and last night - the last night's tide also. So although we still are experiencing flooding because we still have, you know, high surges - but not like we had yesterday and Saturday. That was really a major problem. We had some tide gauges that read, like in Stone Harbor, 10.55 feet, which is a record for us. And down in Cape May, we had 9.62 feet in Stone Harbor, so - excuse me, in the harbor area. So - and it was about four or five feet higher than a normal tide, so that has a significant impact on Cape May County.

MARTIN: Do you have any idea at this point the level of damage?

THORNTON: No, and we wouldn't because we do damage assessment after the storm. You know, during the storm and right now, our problem is making sure that everybody's safe and people that we had to shelter overnight, trying to get them back home as soon as the tidal waters go down, and things like that. So - and it takes some time because we have 16 municipalities in Cape May County, and 14 of those municipalities are either on the ocean or the bay. So we have to get together with all the local officials and then get all that - assess all that damage. So it will take some time for us to just go through and assess everything and what we've had. We have had, of course, water damage in a lot of areas. We had wind damage with some roofs blowing off. The airport - we had a roof blow off a building at the airport, things like that. We had - in Sea Isle City, we had a six-alarm fire that went on - was going on all night. In fact, they finally had to knock the building down in order to get the fire out. So -

MARTIN: I know the water levels yesterday exceeded those during Superstorm Sandy in 2012, but how do you compare the two weather events?

THORNTON: Well, it was much different because in Superstorm Sandy, we - our towns in the northern end of the county were impacted significantly, but in the southern part of the county, although we had some impact - but it wasn't as bad. And we didn't get hit like the northern counties did - Atlantic County, Ocean County, Monmouth County. So we were somewhat - I can't say fortunate, because we had damage from Superstorm Sandy, but this time, those levels were higher as far as flooding and - or the tidal gauges that we were watching on the ocean side.

MARTIN: Well, Gerald Thornton of Cape May County, good luck getting all of your residents back home safe, and best wishes as you begin the recovery process there.

THORNTON: Thank you very much. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.