Archive for the ‘Week of 8/19-8/25 2007’ Category

Cool People for the Week of August 18th-25th

August 19, 2007

Station 44 responds to structure fire at Sunny Hunny in Ortley…

August 19, 2007

Station 44’s Matt Semeraro was the nozzleman of the first hose to put water on this fire at the Sunny Hunny Restaurant, Route 35 North in Ortley Beach.

A close-up of Sunny Hunny damage.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE?: Half-eaten plates of breakfast food are left on tables of the Sunny Hunny, which was quickly evacuated when a fire occurred in the electric service panel outside the building.

For the second time in just a week, a group of barrier island restaurant-goers were forced to evacuate a premises with food left on the tables uneaten. Earlier in the week the scene had been at the Crab’s Claw Inn in Lavallette, which sustained a structural problem. On Sunday morning August 19th, the scene was the popular Sunny Hunny restaurant, located on Route 35 North in Ortley Beach. Initially, the SHFD was dispatched to a fire on an electrical pole near the Sunny Hunny. The reality was that the fire was not on a pole, but was inside the electric meter on side of the building. The restaurant was packed with customers at about 10:30 a.m. when the smell of smoke became prevalent inside the restaurant. Patrons were evacuated immediately and without panic, according to Sunny Hunny owner Bernie Ferris. In addition to Station 44, Ocean Beach Fire Department and the FAST team from the Point Pleasant Beach Volunteer Fire Department also responded. The fire was able to be contained the electric service panel located inside an attached shed-like structure on the south-side of the Sunny Hunny premises. It was a challenge to accomplish this, according to SHFD firefighter Matt Semeraro, who was the nozzleman for the first hose to put water on the fire. Smoke was visible during the height of the blaze, as flames licked through the metal conduit that protects the connections to the electric meter. Firefighters poured water onto this area to keep the fire contained until GPU energy staff could turn the power to the building off at 11:02 a.m. Although flames did ignite the wooden ceiling of the area around the electric box, the main portion of the building was not burned. The fire was declared under control at 11:26 a.m. Even though this was a cloudy, cool, and otherwise not overly busy day, the traffic pattern surrounding the Sunny Hunny was snarled in both directions for about two hours as police officers from the Township of Toms River, and Fire Police from various locales tried to maintain order and safety. Inside the restaurant, the smell of smoke permeated the air, and tables of uneaten food remained as if in an episode of the Twilight Zone. (A similar, eerie phenomenon also was observed at the Crab’s Claw, according to sources.) Sunny Hunny owner Bernie Ferris says he will try to clean-up and re-open within the next few days. Mr. Ferris says 2007 is his 20th year in business. He bought the restaurant in 1987 from famed Sunny Hunny founder Mama Lita, who operated the establishment with her staff of “chicks” prior to the purchase in ‘87. Mr. Ferris says that Mama Lita is actually still around, living in Point Pleasant last he knew.


31 Years on since Hurricane Belle….

August 19, 2007

A special edition of the Ocean County Review was published in response to Hurricane Belle’s passage in 1976. Belle was the only hurricane in modern memory where the barrier island had to be evacuated at the peak of tourist season.

The satellite presentation of Hurricane Belle in August 1976.

Hurricane Belle had just dropped from a Category Two Hurricane to a Category One, and had maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour with a minimum central pressure of 977 millibars when its weaker left side passed over Ocean County in August 1976.

Currently, powerful Hurricane Dean is pummeling the Caribbean and soon will do the same to the Yucatan, continuing the tradition of the last 12 years, which has been a time of increased hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin. With Dean’s devastation fresh in our minds, this week we look back at the last (and only) hurricane to force an evacuation in Ocean County during the peak of the tourist season. This of course was Hurricane Belle in August 1976. I was 5 years old, living in Seaside Heights in August 1976, and remember the event clearly. Belle was born off of a tail end of an old frontal boundary. This cluster of storms developed a tropical low pressure center off of the Carolinas, and then moved up the East Coast as a hurricane. (This was similar to the more recent Hurricane Bob in 1991, which was more powerful then Belle, but passed much farther to our east than she did.) When Belle initially threatened our area, she was a powerful Category 3 hurricane, capable of doing extensive damage. There was no more than two days notice for the arrival of Belle, and fear was everywhere. One morning I awoke to find my older brothers taping our windows with masking tape (which we now know is a waste of time and tape) and I didn’t understand what was happening. That day I would learn several new vocabulary words including hurricane and evacuation, among others. The concept of the hurricane was clearly explained to me, as was the dreaded fear that “the ocean would meet the bay”. I knew we had to leave, and would be heading to Brick Township to the home of my oldest brother and sister-in-law. Before we did leave the island, there was time to take a brief walk to observe the various hurricane preparations, which included the boarding up of houses and businesses along the boardwalk. My up-to-then peaceful neighborhood felt like a war zone to me. The day of the arrival of Hurricane Belle was overcast and rainy, with a deep smell of salt sea air and humidity increasing as quickly as the tension. There was a feeling of dread as we left our sea-level home towards higher ground. My entire family waited out Hurricane Belle inside my brother’s newlywed apartment with the shrieks of high winds, the crashes of falling trees, intermittent power interruptions, and the sounds of heavy rain beating against the roof. The good news was that that Belle had weakened to a Category One as it approached our area, with winds of 85 miles per hour sustained and a pressure of 977 millibars. Not only was Belle a minimal hurricane when it hit, Ocean County was on the weaker left side of the circulation. There would be damage, but not those of biblical proportions many feared. We awoke to a sunny day, which was eerie itself given the previous evening’s weather. We quickly learned that we could return to Seaside Heights, and by the early afternoon, we were home. Aside from a puddle of water near our lower floor entrance door, and a fallen, obsolete television antenna, our house was unscathed. Our neighborhood had damage: fallen trees, fallen signs, flooded streets, but nothing overwhelming. It seems that everyone went around to gawk at the most obvious signs of damage. This included the toppled tall sign of the Ortley Beach A & P, and a fun house on Casino Pier, which was completely destroyed. (Interestingly enough, this destroyed fun house was replaced by the Doorway to Hell haunted house built by the Mahana’s of the Haunted House Corporation of East Orange and operated until 1984. This was the prototype for the later Haunted Castle at Six Flags Great Adventure. Many readers already know that the Haunted Castle eventually burned and killed 8 people, and is the topic of one of my documentary movies and of my upcoming book.) Whatever damage that had been inflicted by Belle was soon cleared up, and our lives were expected to go back to normal. Maybe it was my young age, but I had trouble going back to normal after such a dramatic few days. I knew that if what we had was the weakest side of the weakest possible hurricane, then a hurricane had a tremendous power beyond anything a normal person could wrap their minds around. Everybody kept saying that we got off lucky, and it could have been a lot worse. They also kept saying that it could happen again. This began a life-long fascination with tropical weather. I would watch other storms impact our area. I remember Tropical Storm David in 1979 and its massive rains and brisk winds. I was a freshman in high school in September 1985 when again we were asked to evacuate our home for a doomsday scenario: Hurricane Gloria. My Earth Science teacher, Mr. Cameron of Central Regional, said that compared to Gloria, Belle had been a spring shower. Once again there was talk of the “ocean meeting the bay.” When Gloria came to our area, I was so frightened that I took every single valuable possession I owned with me during the evacuation. I really thought it was the end. Fortunately, however, Gloria didn’t make New Jersey landfall, and in fact veered off shore much farther than anticipated. Once again, we were back in a day, and the damage seemed less than Belle. Again, people talked about how lucky we had been, and how the “big one” was yet to come. Now it’s 22 years on from Gloria, and 31 years on from Belle. The big one has not yet come. Given the great span of time between events and the explosion of the county’s population, many current Ocean County residents probably didn’t live here during Belle or Gloria. Many people either don’t believe it can happen, or are complacent if they happen to remember the rosy outcomes of ’76 and ’85. We might not be so lucky next time. Readers should look at the photos of the damage of Hurricane Belle and remember, “weakest side of weakest possible hurricane”. So as I’ve been saying all hurricane season and every hurricane season: have a plan for when the inevitable happens. Special thanks to the Wenzel family of Lavallette for supplying the archive photos.

This London Planetree on Sherman Avenue in Seaside Heights. was uprooted in the winds of Hurricane Belle, a category one storm that passed off shore in August 1976. Notice the water tower, which is painted red, white and blue in honor of the Bicentennial.

The tall sign in the A&P parking lot in Ortley Beach was toppled by Hurricane Belle.

Mayor Hershey’s new ride….

August 19, 2007

Seaside Heights Mayor Ken Hershey is seen with his brand new, 2007 Cadillac Escalade.

Mayor Hershey says he has yet to figure out all the buttons and gadgets associated with his new SUV.

Recently, longtime Seaside Heights Mayor Ken Hershey acquired a new, 2007 Cadillac Escalade. Many readers know that our Mayor previously owned the 2003 model of the same vehicle. For the past year, the Mayor has been considering trading up for new. On June 26th the decision was made a lot easier, when the grill of the original vehicle was damaged in a minor accident, paving the way for purchasing the ’07. The Mayor debuted the new SUV last week at the firehouse during the fire calls that followed a big, flooding thunderstorm.

It came from the 80’s…..

August 19, 2007

Slippery When Wet, a Bon Jovi cover band, performed as part of the Seaside Heights Free Music Mondays series on August 6, 2007.

Amethyst performed Totally Awesome 80’s during the Free Music Mondays series, August 13th.

The members of Amethyst 80’s: Scott, Kristi, Peter, Mike Dok, Mike Z.

The 80’s were alive and well in Seaside Heights during the Summer of 2007. The Free Movies on the Beach series featured fave 80’s films such as Sixteen Candles, Dirty Dancing and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Additionally, the Free Music Monday concert series featured its share of 80’s nostalgia as well. Back again this year was Slippery When Wet, which is a very realistic Bon Jovi cover group. For the third year in a row, Slippery When Wet were the most popular concert of the entire series. On Monday August 13th, for the second year in a row, Amethyst appeared at Hiering Avenue stage, and sang 80’s pop hits. Thanks again to these great bands for keeping the 80’s alive!