In Sandy's Wake: Delaware, Maryland beach towns count blessings

Fun in sun again for seaside residents 13 days after storm


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ALONG THE DELAWARE AND MARYLAND SHORES -- Seaside residents in Delaware and Maryland celebrated an unseasonably warm, crystal blue-sky Veterans Day by flocking to the ocean, unencumbered by lingering effects of Superstorm Sandy, unlike their counterparts in New Jersey and New York.

Beach-goers shopped seaside stores, ate pizza and fries and ice cream, strolled the sand, walked dogs and pushed babies in Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach, Del., and Ocean City, Md.

Lured by Sunday's 70-degree temperatures and brilliant sunshine, those in Rehoboth Beach noshed on Thrasher's french fries, Dolle's salt water taffy and Kohr Bros. frozen custard, even as they expressed sympathy for seaside residents who weren't as lucky.

There were so many people of all ages and dogs of all breeds crowding the boardwalk and so many shore stores selling wares that if you didn't know better you would have thought it was the first day of the summer season.

Instead, it was an incredible November day made all the more precious by having been spared what Sandy had wrought 13 days earlier farther north along the shore. While there was some flooding and property damage, it was relatively minor given the storm's savagery elsewhere.

"Rehoboth is fine. We were very, very blessed," said Dan Sypinski, a former Allison Park resident and longtime Steelers season ticket-holder as he helped run Sharee, his wife's namesake women's jewelry, clothing and accessories store on Rehoboth Avenue. "Everybody's open for business."

Mary and Glenn Vernon of nearby Lewes, agreed that fortune had smiled on their slice of the shore.

"We were very lucky. We thought it was going to hit us head on," Mrs. Vernon said as the couple sat in the sun on the boardwalk.

"Everything pretty much stayed intact," Mr. Vernon said. "There was a little bit of beach erosion."

"We've had nor'easters that were worse than Sandy," Mrs. Vernon said. "I saw the kind of day it was today and said, 'We have to get out.' "

She held Cece, the couple's Pomeranian, as Mr. Vernon tended to their Lhasa Apso, named, of all things, Sandy.

In Bethany Beach, 13 miles to the south, Mike and Theresa Porta walked through the active business district to the boardwalk, still happily surprised at the good fortune that Sandy's path spared their community from damage more destructive than it suffered.

"I feel so sorry for them," Mr. Porta said of those in seaside communities to the north who suffered deaths and extensive damage when Sandy roared ashore there.

"We lucked out. We thought it was going to be us," his wife said.

Bill Ulmer, a local dentist, said the twist of fate in the way Sandy's path changed was what spared Bethany Beach from much more serious damage than the flooding that occurred in certain areas.

"It made that left turn a little higher. I guess that's what saved us," he said as he and his wife, Patty, walked Annie, their friendly Samoyed, on the boardwalk.

That view was shared by Rick Wright, 15 miles to the south in Ocean City, Md.

"If it had made that turn farther south it would have been much worse here," he said, standing outside his house a block from the beach.

As it was, there was some flooding, particularly on the city's bay side. But a 25-block-long sea wall protected the boardwalk, took the power out of the surging water and kept the sand from filling city streets. Bulldozers have been used to reclaim the beach.

"We had barely a fraction of the damage they had up north," said Mr. Wright, who rents apartments in his building each summer to Pittsburghers. "It doesn't even compare. It was no different than what we get with a nor'easter."

As the sunlight dimmed, providing a reddish tint, skateboarders shared the boardwalk with bicyclists, young parents pushed babies past older couples walking dogs. A surfer waited to catch a wave as young families strolled the sand.

For this area of the East Coast, at least, it had been a pleasant day.

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Michael A. Fuoco: mfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1968. First Published November 12, 2012 5:00 AM


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