OF ALL THE images in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy last October, two seemed to linger - that of the unmoored roller coaster in Seaside Heights, and the one of the blown-away section of Boardwalk in Atlantic City.
While the former was a real victim of the rain and high winds, the latter was, in many ways, just an unfortunate circumstance. The fallout from a perfect storm, if you will.
"It caused a lot of misinformation about the damage from the storm and we have spent the last months trying to recover from that," said John Palmieri, executive director of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, overseer of the biggest swath of Shore tourism: the Atlantic City casino district.
That shattered Boardwalk was only a sliver at the barely traveled northern end and had been in disrepair and awaiting reconstruction for years. In fact, say Palmieri and others in authority, the Shore - at least from Atlantic City southward - is as ready as it ever has been.
"Every business is ready and the beach is in great shape," said Len Desiderio, who has been mayor of Sea Isle City for 20 years now. Sea Isle's business leaders spent $30,000 for a billboard at the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel into New York in February and March, blaring the town's new motto: "We're Ready."
Desiderio said that it was a none-too-subtle effort to get people from North Jersey and New York to try Cape May County this summer.
"Look, we just want people who normally go to Ocean and Monmouth Counties not to head to Maryland or North Carolina - to keep their vacations in-state," said Desiderio. He said that businesspeople noticed a few more New York license plates in town this spring, but the bigger catch has been calls for rentals from the 978 area code in North Jersey.
"It's not an incredible amount, but enough so we have noticed it," he said.
The state of New Jersey, Atlantic City and Cape May County have their own expanded radio, print and billboard campaigns to spread the "We're Ready" word as well.
They aren't exaggerating their optimism.
Statistics from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs show that only 192 properties in beach towns from Ocean City south to Cape May suffered "severe" damage, meaning anything more than $28,000, a fairly low threshold. Most damage to businesses was limited to first-floor or basement flooding, which may have played havoc with electrical, plumbing and equipment systems that would have been somewhat easy to repair over the past six months.
Still, residents, renters and officials are a bit wary of how summer 2013 will shake out - especially whether the usual South Jersey Shore fans and those who might try it out from points north will show up to spend time and money.
With an eye toward how the big storm's impact might have reshaped your summer vacation plans, we asked our experts here at the Daily News - reporters who've spent serious time downashore for work and pleasure - to share insider insights on their fave resort towns, from Atlantic City to Cape May. We also sent one brave explorer all the way to Ocean City, Md., where a growing number of locals are heading to make their summer memories.
On PhillyDailyNews.com: Check out our 2013 Shore Guide.