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Northern Barrier Island Residents Start To Return Home Months After Sandy

TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Residents evacuated from New Jersey communities in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy started moving back home on Monday.

Seaside Heights and the northern beaches of Toms River reopened more than two months after Sandy destroyed and damaged homes.

"I feel blessed that I'm still standing and have a house I can move back into," said Brick resident Dean Janeway, who lost the first floor of his house and pool.

"I'm happy to be back here," Mantoloking resident Lester Carrillo said. "Life will never be normal down here, but things change."

Northern Barrier Island Residents Start To Return Home Months After Sandy

Those who live in single-family homes were allowed to return, but only if they had gotten certificates of occupancy stating their homes are safe to live in and have utilities restored.

Multi-family homes and motels are expected to reopen next week.

"It's a long drawn out process, but this is kind of like that ray of hope where people can say the barrier island is open," Brick Mayor Stephen Acropolis said.

Crews have continued to clean up the mess Sandy left behind in Seaside Heights.

And while the borough's iconic roller coaster still sits in the ocean, life is starting to get back to normal now that some residents are being allowed back into their homes permanently.

"I am homesick. This is my baby so I want to get back here as soon as possible," Seaside resident Tom Oldewurtel told CBS 2's Christine Sloan.

Oldewurtel has been living in an apartment since Sandy moved in and demolished much of the community.

"The apartment is paid by FEMA, I've been very lucky. It's paid through February and that's my goal, to get back by February," he told Sloan.

For some Seaside residents, getting life back to normal is taking a little more time.

"As you can see from sitting, mold is starting to set in and such," Robert Bowers told CBS 2's Sloan.

Bowers' apartment has been deemed unsafe and said there is a lot of work that needs to be done to pass inspections.

"Everybody is banding together and everybody is working together to move forward and put our lives back together," he said.

Mail delivery has again resumed in the hard-hit shore community.

Businesses like the Beachcomber, made famous by the reality show, "Jersey Shore," have been staying open until 10 p.m. even though the boardwalk is gone.

"We lost a lot of money. You can't get it back because you lose the holidays. We lost Thanksgiving, we lost New Year's," Beachcomber owner Michael Carbone told Sloan.

The roller coaster will be pulled from the ocean, but it remains to be determined when that will happen.

Still, Seaside Heights officials expect the beach resort town to be ready for tourists by summer.

"We need to get message out that Seaside Heights is going to be open. We're going to be here for the summer. Don't forget about us, think about us. We will be here so make your plans to come here," Seaside Heights Mayor William Akers told CBS 2's Sloan.

"As long as we have the nice weather, the hot summer and our boardwalk is back together again, Seaside will be Seaside once again," said Seaside Heights Public Affairs Director Michael Graechen.

The company that owns the roller coaster will turn the metal into scrap, but plans to build another one.

It won't be open by the summer, but half of the other rides will. The borough also plans to have a brand new boardwalk by then.

The Ortley Beach section remains closed as repair and restoration work continues.

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