Belmar Mayor: What We’ve Learned … Five Years After Superstorm Sandy

"There was no playbook for dealing with a Sandy-type event." — Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty.

Editor’s Note: Belmar Mayor Matthew Doherty takes a look at the borough’s response and recovery — and lessons learned — five years after Superstorm Sandy left a path of unprecedented destruction along the Jersey Shore.

BELMAR, NJ Sandy struck the Jersey Shore on October 29, 2012, with an unprecedented impact that continues to linger even today, five years later. As the Mayor of Belmar before, during and after the storm, I was able to be a part of, and witness to, government’s response to a natural disaster and its effects on residents.

Leading up to Sandy, we took direction from Gov. Chris Christie and his administration, along with the National Weather Service. We prepared as best we could, in that I mean we declared a state of emergency and mandatory evacuation. Other preparations were taken, but ultimately deemed fruitless against the storm surge produced by Sandy at about 8 p.m. that night.

Sign Up for E-News

Belmar first responders and our water rescue team were heroes that night and for days after as they saved over 140 families from front porches and roof tops. The fact that there was no loss of life or even serious injury is a testament to their bravery and professionalism.

Gov. Christie came to survey the damage in Belmar the next day. His helicopter landed and he walked right up to me a said, “Matt, if there is anything you need, please just let me know.” Of course we did have a list of requests from National Guard troops to firewood. We were desperate and needed assistance quickly and in a large volume, and I was not too proud to ask for help.

There was no playbook for dealing with a Sandy-type event. I spent most of my time in the daylight visiting residents, hugging them and letting them know that we would all get through this disaster together.

I regularly asked what emergent issues the town could help them with, mostly it was the basics — food and water. In the evening, our team met and went over what we could improve upon for the next day. It seemed like we took it hour by hour during the daytime and day by day at nighttime.

Days turned into weeks, and we were able to stabilize Belmar and our cleanup progressed aggressively. People cared about each other and helped neighbors who needed it inside our community, while outside of Belmar, Americans were very generous with financial assistance and supplies we needed.

Weeks turned to months and residents started rebuilding their homes and Belmar rebuilt its iconic boardwalk. Members of the U.S. Senate and Congress called and visited our community, and worked in a bipartisan manner in Washington, D.C., to fight for the financial resources necessary for our recovery.

Months have now turned into years, and Belmar is better now than ever before. Everyone is back home, home values have increased as property taxes have decreased, we have more small business now than before Sandy, our boardwalk and rebuilt pavilions are being enjoyed again, and we have increased our defenses against a future storm surge. 

I have visited other small towns like Belmar that have been impacted by hurricanes, including Pass Christian, Miss., which was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and Rockport, Texas, which was hammered by Hurricane Harvey this past August. I have met with their mayors, residents and small business owners. What we all have in common is the desire to rebuild and the need for financial assistance towards that end.

Here at the Jersey Shore, five years after Sandy, we have learned that Sandy victims are extremely resilient, Americans are very generous, times of natural disaster call for bipartisan leadership of elected officials at all levels of government, and government need to be effective and efficient to ensure a full recovery.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Belmar/Lake Como

As Our Parkland Community Comes Together ...

February 21, 2018

PARKLAND, FL — While Marjory Stoneman Douglas was the setting for the tragedy of last week, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the person, was a civic-minded journalist who devoted her life to preservation and civil rights. 

The events of the past week have left our Parkland community devastated but determined to bring forth hope and optimism for the future.  We have been left asking ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, February 21, 9:30 AM

Lake Como Borough Hall, Lake Como

Lake Como Mommy and Me Play Date


Thu, February 22, 7:00 PM


Belmar Zoning Board of Adjustment


Fri, February 23, 10:00 AM

Belmar Community Center, Belmar

Coffee with Belmar Public Works Department


Sat, February 24, 6:00 PM

Taylor Pavilion, Belmar

For the Love of Thy Neighbor Gala by the Sea


Sun, February 25, 2:00 PM

Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh, Belmar

St. Patrick's Day Parade Fundraiser

Monmouth County Communications Center Earns National Award for Outstanding 911 Services

February 20, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC — The Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office 911 Communications Center recently was recognized nationally for excellence in providing emergency services that utilize the latest advancements in new technology.

Monmouth County Sheriff Shaun Golden recently traveled to the nation’s capital to receive the Outstanding 911 Call Center/Program Award from the NG911 ...

Washington Crossing State Park Brings on Spring with Maple Sugaring Demonstrations

February 19, 2018

TITUSVILLE, NJ — The art of maple sugaring, known as a harbinger of spring, is featured in a series of educational programs to be held through early March at Washington Crossing State Park.

"Maple sugaring is a hands-on activity that serves as an excellent vehicle for teaching many important natural resource concepts," said Mark Texel, director of the N.J. Department of ...

JCP&L Offers Customers Assistance with Winter Heating Bills

February 13, 2018

MORRISTOWN, NJ — As the cold weather continues, financial assistance programs are available for Jersey Central Power & Light customers who need help with winter heating bills.

Assistance to qualifying JCP&L customers is available through the Lifeline, Universal Service Fund, Weatherization, Payment Assistance for Gas and Electric (PAGE) and New Jersey SHARES ...

TAPinto.net Named Partner of the Year by NJ News Commons

NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ —  TAPinto.net has been named Partner of the Year by NJ News Commons, a network of more than 230 news organizations across New Jersey. The award goes to a journalist or news organization that showed overall excellence in its work for 2017.    

Joe Amditis, associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media, said TAPinto won the award ...

Daddy/Daughter Sweetheart Dance: A Great Success Thanks to All Involved

February 7, 2018

To the Editor:

The Belmar PTO would like to thank several local businesses and community organizations for supporting our Annual Daddy/Daughter Sweetheart Dance on Friday, January 19 at Taylor Pavilion in Belmar.

The dance was a fun-filled evening for almost 60 young girls, prekindergarten to eighth grade, and the special men in their lives. Statistics show that a positive father-daughter ...

Belmar and Lake Como

February 7, 2018

Belmar Police Department reported the following arrests occurred in Belmar and Lake Como from January 1, 2018 to January 31, 2018.


Nora Campbell, 35, of Eatontown was charged with disorderly conduct after her January 9 arrest on 10th Avenue by Police Officer Anthony Steneck.

David Lukens, 46, of Belmar was charged with disorderly conduct after his January 14 arrest on 16th Avenue ...