MANASQUAN, N.J. (AP) — Saws and sledgehammers joined beer and barbecues — under covered porches — as a fixture of the first Memorial Day weekend at the Jersey shore since Superstorm Sandy roared through.
Seven months after the devastating storm pummeled large swaths of the shore, the tourists made their way back, though many substituted porch parties for a day at the beach on Saturday due to rain that has lingered since Thursday.
Though most shore towns have mounted Herculean efforts to rebuild boardwalks and restore beaches, thousands of homes remain damaged, including many along the beachfront.
Jennifer Kornas of Neshanic Station, N.J. and her husband own one in Manasquan. Sandy washed away its stairs and wrecked the furnace, but the home itself escaped without the kind of catastrophic damage that ruined the smaller home next door.
"The devastation was unthinkable," she said Saturday as her three children scampered in and out of the house in a light rain. "We're just praying for no nor'easters this summer because the dunes are all gone. They're coming back, but not until September."
There was never a question of selling the house.
"I have three kids that I raised here," she said. "This is what we do; this is my life. I'm going to do everything I can to stay here. It's going to be tough, but we'll stick together and it'll be OK."
Nearby, Meghan Wisniewski of Sayreville rented a house for the summer for the first time with three fellow 20-somethings.
"When we first talked about getting a house, we didn't know what the shore would be like by summer," she said. "It almost looks back to normal."
Lauren Liberatore, one of her housemates, said their rental was ideally located for a great summer.
"It's 100 yards from the beach and 100 yards from Leggett's," she said, referring to a legendary Jersey shore bar.
Throughout their neighborhood, groups of young people filled rentals, spilling out onto porches as the rain fell, red and blue plastic cups in hand. Surfers took advantage of wind-whipped waves near the Manasquan Inlet, and fishermen still ventured out onto the rock jetty to cast lines for fluke and bluefish.
But the beaches were deserted; badge-checkers were not even on duty Saturday for the unofficial summer kickoff. Lifeguard stands were turned upside down, and only a handful of hardy souls braved the blowing sand that stung the eyes and scoured the skin along Manasquan's paved beach walk, which was just rebuilt a few weeks ago.