By Gene Lyons

Goodbye, Jersey Shore

November 7, 2012 11:15 am Category: Memo Pad 26 Comments A+ / A-
Goodbye, Jersey Shore

Experience keeps a dear [i.e. expensive] school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that.

–Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

As Hurricane Sandy bore down on the east coast, I confess feeling an odd sense of excited foreboding. As a New Jersey expatriate—I followed an Arkansas girl home from school and never looked back—I haven’t lived there since college, but haven’t entirely lost my feeling for the state either. The place where you spent your first 20 years leaves an indelible mark.

Having spent parts of every summer of my childhood on the beaches and boardwalk at Seaside Heights, I also had vivid memories of a charismatic Rutgers professor warning a lecture hall filled with Jersey boys that allowing urban development on the state’s Atlantic Ocean front was dangerously shortsighted, and that a day of reckoning would surely come.

His name was Melvin G. Marcus, a physical geographer with an imposing physical presence and a passion for teaching students how the world works—which to him meant a clear-eyed understanding of the planet’s physical processes—its landforms, climate and weather. Although a liberal arts major, I found his lectures enthralling and often funny.

After a nor’easter opened a new inlet between Seaside Park and Belmar that winter, taking out five or six unoccupied summer homes, Prof. Marcus’s zeal could hardly be contained. An Air Force pilot during the Korean War, he showed us aerial photographs of the string of barrier beaches—basically overgrown sandbars—separating the Atlantic Ocean and a series of shallow bays all along the New Jersey coastline.

Comes the inevitable hurricane, he warned, and scores of New Jersey resort towns from Sandy Hook to Cape May would be washed into the ocean. Erecting permanent structures on such terrain was an exercise in futility. Better to preserve the barrier islands as public parkland. Build nothing on sand that you can’t afford to see pounded to splinters by the sea, was his advice.

Needless to say, such warnings are rarely heeded. Not when there’s money to be made. The more comfortable we grow, the less respectful we are of nature’s destructive power.

Watching the massive hurricane—almost 1,000 miles across, the largest tropical system ever recorded in the Atlantic basin—making its fateful turn toward the Jersey shoreline, it was easy to imagine, if impossible to fully comprehend, what would happen.

From childhood, I knew there were no “heights,” or even modest hills, near Seaside Heights—nor anywhere on the Jersey Shore. At high tide, a 12-foot storm surge would send the Atlantic Ocean rolling clear across to Barnegat Bay, demolishing virtually everything in between.

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Goodbye, Jersey Shore Reviewed by on . Experience keeps a dear [i.e. expensive] school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that. --Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack As Hurricane Experience keeps a dear [i.e. expensive] school, but fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that. --Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack As Hurricane Rating:

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Comments

  • nobsartist

    Like they say, why should we have to pay because some idiot wants to live next to the ocean and does not believe in climate change?

    • sigrid28

      If only this area were designated as a national park system, after making whole those below a certain income while allowing wealthy landowners with property insurance to collect but with the obligation to rebuild elsewhere, we might all feel better about paying for the “reconstruction” of the area. A national park must have some structures, perhaps converted from buildings remaining after Sandy, but could be evacuated more readily than private properties. Building a national park there would provide jobs, as would running one. A thriving tourism business would be assured, maybe even a better one.

      Our family had to give up its lakeside cottage, which had been used by three to ten families for consecutive two-week vacations every summer, to wealthy locals for a second home. Some family members vacationed at the lake after the sale, in rentals, but soon found they could not swim very comfortably in the lake any more as larvae that caused itchy skin irritation had taken over the formerly pristine fresh waters. Winter sports in the area have been affected by lack of snow and thinning of the ice over the lake, as has fishing and hunting: the ratio of fishermen to fish and hunters to wild life has become too high. But the good news is that you can still win a rifle at a raffle and build up quite a gun collection.

      • nobsartist

        I have heard this same story before. whos rates go up when an idiot with more money than brains gets flooded out and the insurance company has to pay out a few million after receiving a few thousand in payments?

        on another note, the millionaires in michigan came up with a unique way of stealing prime waterfront land.

        its called “the emergency financial manager law” and it was created by the corrupt tea party governor who bankrupted gateway computer after sending all of the gateway jobs to china.

        sort of like willard the rat.

        • sigrid28

          I’m with you here. A national park solution is not a solution for every shore. Also, there’s no good plan that cannot be corrupted. The good people of Michigan saw fit to cancel “the emergency financial manager law” in a referendum, I believe.

          I admire your attention to detail, a trait that big-idea Democrats like me can use a lot more of. If we had looked behind the curtain and been more cynical, maybe state legislatures would not have been able to pass laws hampering local government, restricting voting rights, weakening the role of unions, and undermining pro-choice initiatives that protect women’s health. While Democrats do not espouse the anti-intellectual rhetoric of the far right, we need combat unfair legislation before it gets passed and in a much smarter way. Do you think a smarter liberal media is enough?

          • nobsartist

            the key to creating solutions is to ask the right questions.

  • William Heiland

    There is no denying that global warming is real. Sandy has proven that. We must stop building on the coastal geology that protects us from the strong storms that global warming will bring in ever more frequency. Those who choose to build there anyway should do so at their own risk. They must not get insurance or government support should the ocean take their homes away, which it most surely will.

    • johninPCFL

      Unfortunately the deniers will point to today’s weather in the NY,NJ area as proof that it’s a hoax. “How can we be having global WARMING”, they’ll shout, “when we’re getting the largest snowfall for this date in recorded history?” The warmer, moister air from the southern hemisphere (where it’s summer now) pushing across the equator and over the poles just doesn’t make any sense to them.

      Interconnected world? I guess that’s a hoax too…

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Jones/827014412 Daniel Jones

        Isolationists have problems with that, yes.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KOPKDFAUQPIIRAFI3HEXNMSHLQ Ed

    Sadly, it is not only individual greed that assures that the shore will be rebuilt. The state tax structure depends on tourism!

  • SibyllasStuff

    The Galveston hurricane did so much harm because the public was NOT warned. Isaac’s Storm, a nonfiction book about this explains how the meteorologists in Cuba told the meteorologist Isaac Cline in Galveston about the coming storm, but his arrogance and dismissal of the warnings are what caught people off guard.

    Just like the arrogance of deniers of climate change – whether man-made or otherwise. Or the deniers of the harm of GMO’s in our food supply, chemtrails covering the skies with a blanket of haze on an almost daily basis, the poisoning of the soil with chemicals/pesticides and herbicides, and antibiotic runoff from CAFO’s and the over-medicated public, the flouridation of our water – Flouride is toxic waste, folks. Read the label on the toothpaste tube – check out AliBabba’s site on sodium flouride – it is sold from China – because it cannot be sold here in the U.S.A. because it IS poison, not only to put into municipal water supplies, it is used as a insecticide, protective coating for metal, a wood preserver, flux and toothpaste.

    Go read Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring. Such arrogance and ignorance of us Americans.

    My guess is that the American public will be paying for this – through higher insurance rates all around. If you are going to be building near the water, maybe you also need a system of dykes and levees – like in Holland – to hold back the seas.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pat.campbellcozzi Pat Campbell-Cozzi

    I received a call from a person I care for despondent about the condition of her clients homes and financial challenges after Sandy. Her pain was evident and I care. It is hard for me to see why I can feel her pain but those wealthy folks who lost their huge homes and will experience pain will not have to experience trying to raise a family on minimum wage or two minimum wage jobs and pay huge sums for health insurance for their families that is the equivalent of one salary worth of take home pay.

  • TheOldNorthChurch

    “FEMA packed up everything yesterday and left the area,” said MaryLou Wong, whose home in the Midland Beach neighborhood was destroyed. “They haven’t come back.”

    I guess it was just a photo opp

    • nobsartist

      you mean like bush flying over new orleans 5 days after katrina?

      • TheOldNorthChurch

        Yes exactly, and now like leaving them to fend for themselves four days after the election. Or is this just another example of Big Government inadequacy?

        • nobsartist

          No not exactly. Obama was there the first day. Plus, the problems are all being caused by the UNREGULATED POWER SUPPLIERS who just cant seem to get the job done. Maybe if they were more closely regulated or run by the government, they would have gotten power restored in days instead of the weeks that it is taking.

          So once again, republiCON incompetence with lack of regulations is at work again.

          Sort of like the junk health care system reagun created in 1982.

          • TheOldNorthChurch

            Where do you come up with this stuff all of New York & Jersey power companies are regulated. That is part of the problem.

            “This is a 1950s system with these utilities that are regulated by the the state, but they are bureaucracies that are in many ways a monopoly,” Cuomo said, adding that “it’s a system that just doesn’t work for New York in an emergency crisis situation.”

            Obama may have been there on the first day, but so what, FEMA is not working. It is an inefficient government agency.

            Sort of like what the health care system is about to become. It will become Junk, just like Medicaid is.

          • nobsartist

            Bull crap. If they were regulated they would have made improvements after their last poor performance with the hurricane last year.

            If they were regulated, they wouldnt be working with a system 60 years old and the management wouldnt be paid millions every year for sitting on their hands.

            You should get rid of “old” and replace it with “clueless”.

          • TheOldNorthChurch

            They are regulated, but that does not mean regulators do a good job. Look at PG&E in California. A highly regulated company that declared bankruptcy and because they are regulated they were allowed to pass on their higher cost to consumers. They also did not upgrade their pipe-lines for NG because the PUC did not want to grant grant them higher prices and turned down their request. As a result they kill 8 people in San Bruno. Who paid for the lawsuits and pipeline fix? The Public.

            You are clueless. Public regulated companies are paid millions to sit on their hands every year.

          • DemCommonSense

            FEMA worked quite well before “Shrub” placed it as a sub agency of Homeland Security. What a waste.

  • dljones

    FEMA packed it up and closed due to bad weather. Let Santa Clause help you. Did not see a phone number where Obama could be reached. All you Obama global warming freaks continue to huddle and hold hands.

    Tell Bloomberg I am going for a 32 oz drink and confess to Mrs. Obama I packed a school lunch full of Twinkies.

    Of lesser importance, 52 days until the fiscal cliff. Tell your boy Obama to reach across the isle.
    The new perdition. Are you all living in a bubble?

    The insular arrogance of the reelected is appalling.

    • nobsartist

      didnt you hear? you can reach him at the same number that you called bush on.

      • dljones

        At least Bush answered the phone.

  • howa4x

    science 101: the oceans are warmer and storms that stopped at hatteras now roll up to the NJ shore. We had 2 back to back hurricanes in 2 yrs. Republicans have to wake up and stop denying nature’s forces and destructive power. I drove in the areas of most destruction 2 months ago and marveled how close some million dollar houses were to the ocean. they don’t exist anymore and shouldn’t. There was a song in the 60′s that said”nature’s telling you something is wrong”. Governor Christe should listen to it.

    • nobsartist

      republiCONs are too stupid to be accepted for the science 101 class. They are still trying to figure out capital letters.

  • 1bythebrooks2

    I’m not an evangelical or even much of a church goer. But I consider myself spritual. So with that said, I would remind folks about what the Bible says. Build not your homes on sand, but on solid rock. It goes something like that. It was a metaphor, but oh so true!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1343387797 Annette Marcus

    I am so touched to read this article. Mel Marcus is my dad…and I still miss him terribly. You captured his bigger than life presence so well!

    You know, even without global warming building on cliffs and beaches leaves us incredibly vulnerable.This is in now way meant to blame the victims of Hurricane Sanday–I’ve lived for the past years on earthquake faults and in areas in which forest fires are an ever present danger–we all make choices, but at least I have my eyes open to mine. Given the reality of Global Warming, it’s imperative that we come to terms with the fact that Mama Nature is bigger than us and learn to live more lightly on planet earth.

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