(CBS News) The barrier islands along the New Jersey shore were especially hard-hit by superstorm Sandy. CBS News was one of the first news outlets allowed onto Long Beach Island, N.J., to see the damage there.
A single bridge is only one way on and off the island the locals call "LBI." Now it's closed. Long Beach Island is a popular summer vacation spot and home to nearly 10,000 people. Nobody is being let back on the island after Wednesday because of the widespread destruction.
The area, known as Beach Haven, looks more like beach hell. Sand swallowed everything -- including cars -- in its path. Boats lay scattered on land with nowhere left to go.
John Polonio decided not to evacuate before Sandy struck. He has two ruined cars and a bruised ego. Asked why he decided to stay, Polonio said, "I don't know. Not a very brilliant idea." He said he now wishes he had left.
With no power or water and temperatures in the low 50s, he and his wife Freda finally gave up Wednesday.
The National Guard hauled out the holdovers from an island that is now uninhabitable. Long Island Township Mayor Joe Mancini said, "We have no water, sewer, electric, gas, phones -- (we're) basically dead in the water here."
Dawn Russell is glad she fled to a Red Cross shelter four days ago with her 12-year-old son Malachi. She saw what's left of her house for the first time Wednesday.
Russell recalled, "When I pulled up, it was horrible. I had a boat into my car. My house -- everything was disarray. Everything is just gone from the house."
Asked about what people say about belongings just being stuff and what that's like when it's your stuff, Russell said, "I know they say, they're happy they're OK, and yes, I'm very happy that I'm OK, but that's my life - my everything that I worked all these years to get and save to get is gone."
And like so many along the Jersey shore trying to recover from all that Sandy left behind, Russell will have to do it without insurance.
"I don't even know where to start at this point," she said. "And I really don't."
Russell said she tells her son they're trying to pick up from where they are now and start over. She said, "That's all that we can do."
The mayor of Long Beach Island Township told CBS News it would be five or six days before people will even be let back on the island to check on their homes. As for the damage, the mayor says it could cost more than $700 million dollars to fix, and up to $200 million just to get all the sand off the streets.
Watch Ben Tracy's full report in the video above.