By Jim Melwert

LONG BEACH ISLAND, N.J. (CBS) — As the water recedes from some of the hardest hit barrier islands along the coast of New Jersey, officials say it will still likely be several days before anyone will be allowed back into the beach towns.

Residents on Long Beach Island say this is easily the worst it’s ever been.

“Boats on top of boats, boats not where they belong, there are refrigerators that went from this house to another house. Things are a total mess down here on the island, total mess.”

Stafford Township Police Lieutenant Thomas Dellane calls it surreal. He says the search and rescue operations have wrapped up, now crews are going house to house to make sure everything is safe before they can let property owners back on the island.

“I understand it’s a trying time for them,” Dellane says. “It’s not safe at this time for them to go back there to their residences. As it becomes safe, we’ll absolutely publicize it so they know it’s safe to go back.”

One major concern is the potential for broken gas lines.

“Fortunately, we haven’t had any structural fires,” he says. “We did put a plan into place this morning to have qualified people mostly fire company members, go out physically examine each house and if the house was obviously demolished or damaged beyond repair they’re shutting off service to those residences.”

Dellane says several homes will have to be demolished, especially with back bay flooding, where he says you can see how the tidal surge rushed the lower levels of homes.

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