POINT PLEASANT BEACH, N.J. — Bill Goldberg's first reaction upon entering his flood-damaged home in this popular Jersey Shore resort community was unprintable.
His second was that life as he knew it had just been turned upside down — along with his refrigerator, freezer, and kitchen and dining room furniture.
"Now it's a matter of figuring out whether I have anything left," he said Thursday, as he scraped a thick layer of mud from his home.
Similar scenes were playing out up and down the Jersey Shore and along New York's beachfront communities as residents were allowed back into their neighborhoods for the first time since Hurricane Sandy hit Monday night. Some were relieved to find only minor damage; others were wiped out.
"A lot of tears are being shed today," said Dennis Cucci, whose home near the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach sustained heavy damage. "It's absolutely mind-boggling.
"The worst part is the mental damage from not knowing what comes next," he said. "We're ready to start doing something, but what? What do you do first? When should you start doing it? Where can you put damaged stuff? When can you put it there? We're just waiting for someone to say something."
In the meantime, the shock from the storm was wearing off and the realization that this would be a long, sloppy slog was setting in.
"We're running out of clean clothes," Cucci said. "This is the last pair of dry shoes I have. It took the storm two days to wreck all this, and it's going to take well over a year to recover from it."
Barbara Montemarano drove with her husband Robert to see how their condo near the ocean in Point Pleasant Beach had fared. They dragged their waterlogged possessions to the curb, hoping to dry them in the first sustained sun the region had seen in three days.
"It's just sadness," she said. "It looks like a bomb went off here. There's almost nobody here; it looks like tumbleweeds are rolling down the street."
As for Goldberg, he said he had just completed a total renovation of his kitchen six months ago. The hardwood floors he had lovingly installed were now coated with slippery, smelly mud. A new dishwasher was trashed. A new refrigerator and heating unit were both wrecked.
Salt water was already starting to buckle the interior walls, leading Goldberg to fear he would have to gut the house down to the wooden frame and rebuild it from scratch.
"I don't see where I have much choice," he said.
About half of Point Pleasant Beach's famous mile-long boardwalk was either destroyed or seriously damaged by the storm. But a large central section of the boardwalk, lined with prime tourist attractions, including beachfront bars and restaurants, as well as custard stands and pizza joints, emerged unscathed. And most of the boardwalk's kiddie rides, the heart of the family-friendly appeal of Point Pleasant Beach, had already been dismantled for the winter before the storm hit, raising hopes of at least a semblance of summer tourism in 2013.