Jersey Shore pier operators left reeling by Superstorm Sandy, Winter Storm Athena

By | November 8, 2012

SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. — Just a week after Superstorm Sandy unleashed its wrath on the New Jersey shoreline, a new winter storm named Athena threatened to hamper coastal amusement operators’ cleanup efforts and ongoing damage assessments.

Sandy’s damage was most severe along the central and northern portions of the New Jersey coastline. Seaside Heights, at least visually, was Ground Zero for the storm.

Along the beach town’s buckled and partly obliterated boardwalk, Casino Pier and FunTown Amusement Pier were heavily damaged, with many of their rides and roller coasters left broken or missing in the surf. Of the 44 rides on the latter, reportedly only four remained whole

Carousel Family Entertainment Center reportedly lost about 200 feet of its pier, but its enclosed antique merry-go-round was still intact.

The owners and staff of Casino Pier “were completely in the dark through the storm,” said Toby Wolf, pier marketing director.

“We lost our phones and power,” she said. “The day after, our cell phones barely worked, so we couldn’t even get in touch with each other. We saw the first images [of the damage] on Facebook. Everyone was heartbroken.”

With return access to Seaside Heights restricted due to debris-blocked roads and broken natural gas lines, Casino Pier’s owners were initially allowed only a brief, police-escorted visit to their property, so a full assessment of its more than 30 attractions had not been made. Wolf said at least four rides — the Log Flume, Stillwalk Manor dark ride, Centrifuge (enclosed Scrambler) and Star Jet roller coaster — “are gone.”

Farther up the coast, on Raritan Bay, Keansburg Amusement Park also sustained major damage. Pieces of its facades, concessions and 30 rides were widely strewn, the carousel was smashed, and bumper cars had been tossed about like bath toys as Sandy’s 90-mph gusts and six-foot storm surge demolished buildings. Some attractions from the 108-year-old property were buried in several feet of sand, while parts of others were retrieved from residential yards a half mile inland.

In southern New Jersey, Atlantic City’s Steel Pier and main oceanfront boardwalk remained standing solidly.

“The pier is a testament to good concrete construction,” said Anthony Catanoso, president of Steel Pier Associates. The current two-decade-old incarnation of the historic attraction, originally designed to hold a proposed casino hotel, is a concrete deck built upon 10-foot-diameter concrete pilings, unlike the more standard wooden pilings that support most of the state’s seaside piers.

Meanwhile, some have accused The Weather Channel (TWC) of “sensationalism” for assigning a name to the second storm — a first for a Nor’easter. The channel cited “societal impact” in defending its decision.

The main reason for naming the storm [Athena] is due to additional post-Sandy impacts,” TWC said in an online statement. “With so many people still under recovery efforts — even well inland — the combination of heavy, wet snow and wind prompted the decision to name this storm.”

Watch for additional Northeast storm coverage in the December edition of AMUSEMENT TODAY, in your email via AT’s daily Extra! Extra! Desktop Edition and at

—Dean Lamanna