March ?62 storm unleashed the forces of big government

On the morning of Tuesday, March 6, 1962 I waited for a jitney on Pacific Avenue across the street from my home in Atlantic City. Pacific Avenue runs parallel with the beach and boardwalk one block away. I was 12 years old and on my way to Central Junior High a mile uptown.

After standing half an hour in mixed rain and snow, I went back home to ask Mom why the jitneys weren?t running. But when I looked back toward the ocean from my front porch, I saw foam-covered water from the ocean reaching the corner of Sovereign and Pacific Avenues, where I had just been standing.

That was when I, and most folks at the Jersey Shore, first learned of the ?March Storm? of 1962. Then and three more times during high tide over the next two days, ocean water crossed Pacific Avenue and put a few inches of water in our basement. The wind howled, and we lost electricity for more than a day. Our car was a total loss ? only because we left it in the street by our house. Had we known the damage just a few inches of saltwater could do, we would have moved it to higher ground on a nearby driveway.

It was warm and sunny that next weekend. Thousands of visitors flocked to see the massive destruction in Atlantic City. But they were disappointed. The boardwalk and almost every hotel, house and store there were untouched by the storm.

Although from 1 to 2 feet of water briefly covered most of the town, the beach, together with sea walls of concrete or tar-treated wood only three feet high, completely blocked the storm waves.

The only serious damage in Atlantic City was caused by a freak accident. The tank that the high-diving horse jumped into blew off the Steel Pier and into in the ocean. The current carried it southward, where it smashed through the middle of both the Steel Pier and Million Dollar Pier, took out a section of boardwalk, and finally landed on the beach. Dozens of pinball and midget bowling machines from the Steel Pier midway floated in the ocean and washed up on the beach.

The local police and fire departments promptly evacuated dozens of disabled people in several nursing homes near the ocean and back bays.

I heard there was devastation in South Cape May, Strathmere, Sea Isle City and Long Beach Island. In most of these places there were no sea walls, and houses were either poorly designed, or they were inexpensive cottages built on very low ground right by the water.

The cost of rebuilding them was a small fraction of the billions of dollars later spent on federal flood insurance, pumping sand from the ocean to the beach every year, building sand dunes, and funding the wasteful, corrupt and inept federal bureaucracy called the Federal Emergency Management Administration, known to most as FEMA.

The Jersey Shore quickly recovered from the strong winds and high tides of that March Storm of 1962.

But the forces of big government unleashed by that storm still damage our economy every day. Ugly piles of weed-covered sand built and mandated by the federal government block the once-breathtaking views of the ocean from the boardwalk and beach homes ? and the summer sea breezes.

Federal flood insurance encouraged people to build and rebuild million-dollar mansions instead of small cottages on low ground right by the water ? which drove up the price of all insurance by the shore.

FEMA spends a fortune on salaries, pensions and benefits for countless officials hired because they know somebody and who are accountable to nobody. Many are politicians who lose elections ? like Emergency Management Director Frank McCall in Cape May County, Tom Foley in Atlantic City and of course Michael D. Brown, the mediocre lawyer, defeated candidate for Congress and former head of the International Arabian Horse Association who headed FEMA in Washington, D.C., when Hurricane Katrina (and defective sea walls) destroyed New Orleans in 2005.

FEMA hypes up ordinary snow, northeast and tropical storms (like Irene with 35 mph winds and no storm tides). But when real disasters come, they are usually far slower, less capable and more wasteful than elected mayors and police and fire chiefs were before FEMA took over.

FEMA deliberately increases its budgets ? and importance ? by giving out millions? for things like frozen food? ?ruined? by minor power outages ? without ever demanding anything to prove such ?losses.?

(Reprinted from March 14, 2012 Current-Gazette Newspapers of Atlantic and Cape May Counties,

Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman appears on 92.1FM 8-9 a.m. Saturday. For information see, email or call (609) 927-7333. Breakfast discussions are held 9:30-10:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Shore Diner on Fire and Tilton roads in Egg Harbor Township.

(Image sources –×232.jpg &

  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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