Shore towns are counting on strong summer season to help recover money lost to the storm, and even more so than usual, good weather is seen as crucial this year.
On Long Beach Island, most of the beach near Steve Sweeney's home remains badly eroded. Neighbor David Denenberg said he can't believe what a difference a few months makes considering the street was littered with mattresses, furniture and people's belongings right after the storm.
Denenberg said he knew things were getting back to normal not when cleanup efforts began but when a local convenience store opened.
"It was like, victory! We're back!" Denenberg said.
Victory is more elusive at the southern tip of the island, where the township's Holgate section remains badly damaged. Only a few people bundled in sweatshirts walked on the beach, and scores of houses remained in ruins.
Pat Darcy said despite the removal of 25 tons of sand and 54 inches of water from her Holgate house, and repairs under way to a garage where walls were blown out by the storm, things still don't feel right.
"I don't feel like we're normal yet," Darcy said as she sat on her front steps and pointed toward an empty lot where a house used to be — it had floated up the street and is still sitting on the bay, turned sideways.
Darcy and her husband Sid spent at least two days a week all winter making repairs and replacing belongings. The home is now close to being done, "slowly but surely," Sid Darcy said.
Kathy Waldron, of Livingston, was working with her husband Bob on the first floor of their Holgate home, which they gutted down to the studs. Her husband was hammering nails and installing insulation.
"This is as far as we got in seven months," she said, standing in what was her living room. "It's getting better; we can see it getting better. If you just entered Holgate, you'd think, 'What a disaster.' This is such an improvement."
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