"Normal" is a long way away for Long Beach Island, N.J. The vacation hotspot, slammed by Sandy, is now a poster shot for a post-apocalyptic movie with streets deserted, homes destroyed, business boarded and boats docked in driveways.
"I knew it was going to be bad, but I didn't think it would be this bad," said resident Swan McGowan.
Debris is everywhere, as is the sand. Walking around the island, you can't escape it. McGowen and Joe Carmelengo have both lived on LBI for more than 40 years.
"Never seen the beach eroded, even in the '92 storm. There was more water but not this, McGowan said.
"Mother Nature is horrendous," Carmelengo added.
In this Jersey Shore community, she gave the term 'ocean view' a whole new meaning, as well as dropping anchor. Eight boats could be seen on the side of the highway heading onto the island.
It's a devastating scene seen in neighborhood after neighborhood. More than 200 yards from the ocean, a 4 to 5-foot water line could seen in the basement of a destroyed home.
Due to the threat of looters, police, media and cleanup crews are the select few allowed on the island. A woman who said she's lived on LBI for 40 years stayed, now wishing perhaps she didn't.
"They're not providing us with any kind of water or assistance," she said.
Our car made it as far as the community of Holegate. We were then forced to stop, as piles of sand and the National Guard blocked the road.
Throughout the severity, however, there is some levity. Boarded store signs offer half-off of floating boards. There's also hope.
A birdhouse sits still standing, a home intact, an island on the brink, but one that can always rebuild.