WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The Tri-State Area coastline took a beating during Superstorm Sandy and on Thursday the roads to Jones Beach were finally reopened.
CBS 2's Carolyn Gusoff got a firsthand look at what the surge did to the crown jewel of Long Island's beaches.
It's a casualty that could take years to rebuild. Long Island's shoreline was battered and parts of it are in ruins. New York State Parks Deputy Regional Director George Gorman was there when 20-foot waves crashed over the boardwalk.
"The boardwalk was lifted up, the pilings were lifted up," Gorman said.
The public was allowed to return to Jones Beach on Thursday, but beach goers didn't see the central mall or boardwalk because they were still off-limits.
CBS 2 cameras captured images of the snack bar's cement floor cracked and the boardwalk buckled, much of it warped like a roller coaster. In addition, lifeguard shacks were broken into pieces after they were picked up and moved by the tide; band shell bleachers were splintered and light poles and steel railings were bent like rubber.
"It was heart wrenching, but we are going to open all the facilities as best as we can and as quickly as we can," Gorman said.
Four feet of water submerged the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. The concessions were also flooded and all the seats were still blanketed in seaweed on Thursday. The VIP section of the theater was also in ruins.
The storm surge also submerged Ocean Parkway. It remains closed after a portion of roadway swallowed. The dunes that protect the area are also gone.
"It will take months and years to recover what was here," Jones Beach Park Director Susan Giuliani said.
Robert Moses beaches lost the most sand, officials said.
"The traffic circle, we lost two lanes of road. The beach front is significantly lower," Robert Moses State Park Director Tim Byrne said.
Remarkably, officials said the newly formed lakes at Jones Beach will dissipate and its vast sand beaches will reappear.
"I have great hopes, even walking here now I feel better. It's still here and it will return," said Phil Hemrick of Rockville Centre.
New York State Parks officials said of course the focus now must be on relieving the human suffering, but they said they'll be working all winter to return the beaches to the public by Memorial Day.
So far, only West End beaches and Field 2 are open.
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