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Winter storm worsens North Wildwood dune erosion, worrying mayor: "This is a five-alarm blaze"

Dune erosion is a "five-alarm blaze," North Wildwood mayor says
Dune erosion is a "five-alarm blaze," North Wildwood mayor says 02:13

NORTH WILDWOOD, N.J. (CBS) —  Tuesday's winter storm caused further erosion to North Wildwood's already battered dune system.

A new breach in the dunes formed at the 13th Avenue beach access point, and a gap that formed in mid-January, between 13th and 15th Avenues, has grown bigger.

"This is a house fire," North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said. "This is a five-alarm blaze here where we have no protection in the town."

The dunes are designed to protect the eastern half of the city from ocean water rushing into the streets.

Rosenello fears a major storm will cause ocean water to surge through the dune's gaps, flooding homes, businesses and the city's stormwater system.

"If that gets inundated with ocean water and sand, the city won't be able to drain," Rosenello said. "Every rain storm will now become a flood event."

The city applied for emergency authorization to build a bulkhead — a metal wall — along the 13th Avenue dunes to protect against flooding, but the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection denied the request, saying there's no imminent threat to infrastructure or properties.

The department added that a metal bulkhead could cause further damage to the beach.

North Wildwood is appealing the decision.

The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General, which is representing the state in the appeal process, declined to comment.

Carol Griffith visited North Wildwood on Wednesday, and she said she was stunned by the erosion.

"It's really sad to see it like this in person. It's devastating," Griffith said. "You just wonder what it's going to be like if it continues. The storms and the way Mother Nature's taking the beach back."

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