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Coastal areas bear brunt of Sandy’s damaging wrath

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — A string of New Jersey’s barrier islands got cut off from the mainland by storm surges. Crashing waves shattered part of a landmark fishing pier in Maryland. And dangerous winds forced the busy port in Portland, Maine, to close.

Before Hurricane Sandy knocked out power to New York’s famous skyline or flooded lower Manhattan, the storm came howling into dozens of other communities across the Eastern Seaboard, bringing relentless winds, drenching rain and heavy, punishing surf.

hurricane sandy ocean city

A huge wave crashes on the beach in Ocean City on Monday as Hurricane Sandy bears down on the East Coast. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

And the danger is far from over. After merging with a cold-weather system just before making landfall near Atlantic City, the combined superstorm could still cause inland flooding and more widespread power outages as it spins along a path expected to take it over Pennsylvania before turning toward New England.

In New York City and New Jersey’s Sandy Hook, the storm arrived with record storm surges — walls of fast-moving water that put long stretches of coastline at risk.

“It was nerve-racking for a while, before the storm hit,” said Don Schweikert, a bed-and-breakfast owner in Cape May, N.J., who stayed in his property as Sandy made landfall about 30 miles to the northeast. “Everything was rattling.”

Beach communities from Ocean City to Dartmouth, Mass., were under mandatory evacuation orders at some points. The effects extended beyond the beaches and out to sea.

Off the North Carolina coast, the storm sunk the HMS Bounty, a replica of an 18th-century sailing ship that was built for the 1962 Marlon Brando movie “Mutiny on the Bounty.” Fourteen crew members were rescued by helicopter from rubber lifeboats. Another was found unresponsive in the waves, and the captain was still missing late Monday.

Authorities imposed a curfew on Virginia’s exposed Chincoteague Island, where most of the roads were underwater and the five-mile causeway connecting it to the mainland had to be closed.

As the storm moved north, its heavy surf ripped out more than 100 feet of a fishing pier in the resort town of Ocean City.

“Probably 99.99 percent, if not 100 percent of the people that have ever come to Ocean City, have made it to the pier,” said former Ocean City Mayor Jim Mathias.

Also in Maryland, a power outage at a water-treatment plant resulted in a sewage overflow of 2 million gallons per hour into the main stem of the Little Patuxent River. Because of the severity of the storm, officials said they could take no immediate action to mitigate the damage.

In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage ordered the Portland port to be closed because of the danger of gusts that topped 63 mph in the city.

‘The water’s got no place to go’

Back in New Jersey, the storm rolled ashore with winds gusting at close to 90 mph in some spots. Barrier islands along the state’s shoreline were subject to mandatory evacuations, but not everyone went.

That angered Gov. Chris Christie, who called people who chose to stay “stupid and selfish” and bashed Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford for allowing residents to stay in shelters in the city rather than forcing them onto the mainland.

Langford did not return a message from The Associated Press.

At the height of the storm, communities on the state’s barrier islands — including Atlantic City and Ocean City — were largely flooded, and access in and out was cut off. Earlier in the day, Atlantic City saw an old, 50-foot piece of its world-famous Boardwalk washed away.

By late Monday afternoon, Christie was telling people who were still on the islands to stay in place until Tuesday with the hopes that rescuers could get to them then.

On New York’s Long Island, floodwaters swamped cars and downed trees. A police car was lost during an attempt to rescue 14 people from the Fire Island resort.

Because much of the storm roared through after nightfall, the full extent of the destruction was not likely to emerge until after dawn.

In places like New Jersey, at least one more high tide was expected to bring water sloshing into coastal areas again before officials could get a good look at just how bad the damage was.

In Connecticut, authorities spent Monday night trying to get some 360,000 coastal residents to evacuate ahead of floods still expected there.

“The water’s got no place to go,” said Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch. “It’s been pushed all the way up the coast into this funnel.”