Sandy-hit Jersey Shore off to slow start for first Memorial Day after superstorm

(CBS News) SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. - Seven months after superstorm Sandy ripped up boardwalks and washed a roller coaster into the ocean, summer is getting its unofficial kickoff this weekend on the Jersey Shore.

The next three months are the time most businesses make most of their money in beach towns along a 127-mile stretch of the New Jersey coast.

But they're still not catching many breaks from the weather.

In Seaside Heights, summer's unofficial start was windy, chilly and slow.

Eighty percent of the businesses are back open, and a new boardwalk remains under construction along the casino pier - an amusement park and arcade.

Special Section: Superstorm Sandy
"Crunch time" for Jersey Shore businesses after Sandy

Lou Cirgliano is the marketing manager.

"If it was nice, people would be probably be coming back to Seaside Heights because they want to see what's happening and support the town," said Cirgliano, "but with the weather like this, it's going to be a little, you know, stretched to get things going."

Construction crews have been working for months to rebuild the pier that Sandy swept into the ocean, along with its most popular attraction -- the Jet Star.

"So we're just over 50 percent ready to go," said Cirgliano, "and within the next coming weeks, we'll, as soon as we can get the decking back on the boardwalk, we'll put the rides up, and they'll be ready as well."

Sandy nearly wiped-out the Jersey Shore, causing $37 billion in damage. Some towns, like Mantoloking, are a long way from recovery while Seaside Heights is hoping for a full recovery by mid-summer.

It hasn't been a year since Sandy made landfall here, and already there are warnings that this upcoming hurricane season could be extremely active. The National Hurricane Center is projecting up to 20 named storms, possibly impacting coastlines from the Gulf of Mexico to the Jersey Shore.

Wayne Cimarelli owns the Spicy Cantina bar and grill along the boardwalk. His early season revenues have already taken a hit as local customers are still rebuilding.

"Tens of thousands of people have been affected by losing their homes, and I think that's going to impact the type of summer the entire Jersey Shore's going to have," said Cimarelli. "If we can pay all our bills, I'll be the happiest guy in the world."

But will he be able to pay the bills?

"We're way off, I mean, because we just really only opened eight weekends ago," Cimarelli said.

The Jersey Shore brings in about half of the state's $40 billion tourism industry, where businesses are ready. The question becomes whether vacationers will return.

  • Terrell Brown

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