Residents were turned away from the barrier island just to the north, too. At the bridge, Toms River police Chief Michael Mastronardy told them homes were destroyed, power lines were down and the area smelled like natural gas.
“It's just bad,” he told a group of residents. “Right now we're trying to save lives.”
Kathy Kirkof was hoping to get back to her home in Ortley Beach, just north of Seaside Heights.
“I can't eat; it's so frustrating. It's the unknown. I don't know what I'm going to go back to,” she said.
Toms River and Seaside Heights both took a heavy blow. A truck stuck out of a sinkhole, houses were on their sides and pushed into the main road and huge piles of sand stood blocks from the ocean.
Police were making anyone still there clear out.
“We have to get everyone off the island because there is total devastation,” said Seaside Heights police Chief Thomas Boyd.
Long Beach Island and its northern neighbor still lacked sewer service, water, gas and electricity. The stench of natural gas hung in the air, indicating broken lines.
In Brick Township, as many as 10 homes caught fire during the storm when they were knocked from their foundations, rupturing gas lines, said Brick Township police Sgt. Keith Reinhard. Gas still jetted from the broken lines Wednesday, and about 25 fires burned.
One bright spot: Newer oceanfront homes built on 35-foot pilings did what they were supposed to do as upper floors remained intact, though many were damaged. About a dozen older homes were swept off their foundations, according to Long Beach Township Mayor Joe Mancini.
Some residents believe that beach replenishment projects that built up the dunes protected the southern end of Long Beach Island.
“I felt pretty protected in my house because of all the beach replenishment,” said Will Randall-Goodwin, a 21-year-old Rutgers University student who stayed in his family's home through the storm.
To the north, in Mantoloking, residents weren't feeling so lucky.
Peter Green said a neighbor told him she saw a group of kids carrying away golf clubs they had stolen from his wrecked home.
“There are people looting this area, and there's no law and order right now. They feel it's their opportunity,” he said.
Police appeared to be doing what they could to protect the damaged multimillion-dollar homes.
A police officer patrolled the sand and questioned a group of kids with backpacks, asking if they'd taken anything. They said no, and their father vouched for them.
A passer-by then asked the officer, “Is this Mantoloking?”
“It was,” came the reply.
Dale reported from Long Beach Island. Associated Press writers Katie Zezima in Little Egg Harbor Township and Seaside Heights, Shawn Marsh and Geoff Mulvihill in Trenton, Samantha Henry in Hoboken, David Porter in Newark and Michael Rubinkam contributed to this story.