ATLANTIC CITY - Jorge Cavenas insisted there was a car under there somewhere.
The New York City man had left his family's minivan in an Atlantic Avenue parking lot overnight, only to return yesterday to find that snow from Saturday's massive storm had covered the vehicle so that only a small section of the rooftop luggage rack was visible.
"I think I'm going to be here awhile," laughed Cavenas, 37, using a broom and a small ice scraper to remove the snow. "Maybe all day."
Over in Ocean City's Gardens section, where winding streets through neighborhoods of snow-covered vacation homes made the place look like a winter wonderland, year-rounder Kim Raymond had resigned herself to the fact that digging out her car and driveway would take all day.
"I put some chili in the crock pot this morning, and by the time I'm finished out here, it'll be ready," said the 37-year-old ER nurse. "I had to dig myself out because I have to get to work tonight."
Such was the scene up and down the coast yesterday after the biggest December storm in 100 years dumped between 12 and 23 inches of snow on the region. Officials said they were lucky to have avoided the predicted heavy beach erosion that the storm might have caused, and what remained was to plow and clean the roadways.
Otherwise, police and emergency management personnel reported no major problems in Atlantic, Cape May, and Ocean Counties, but the storm did cause up to 11,000 Atlantic City Electric customers to lose power during the storm. All but a handful of those homes had their power restored yesterday, officials said.
Elsewhere, causeway bridges leading into the barrier-island towns of Ocean City and Wildwood, and the Townsends Inlet Bridge connecting Sea Isle City and Avalon, were shut down after tidal flooding and slick road conditions caused a series of fender-benders.
While all the other thoroughfares were reopened yesterday, the Ninth Street Bridge and Route 52 causeway between Ocean City and Somers Point remained closed.
That's where the state Department of Transportation is working on a $400 million project to upgrade the roadway. But after a construction barge came loose from its moorings and slammed into the bridge during the storm, officials have closed the roadway until DOT inspectors can determine if it is structurally sound.
Digging out from under 12.1 inches of snow at 5,000-acre Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township was probably the biggest snow-cleanup task in the region yesterday, said Tom Rafter, the airport's executive director.
"It's going to take a few days before we can get everything running normally," said Rafter, noting that AirTran and Spirit Airlines had canceled all their flights Saturday, creating havoc for hundreds of passengers, who were mostly bound for warmer southern climes.
"But we are happy to say that many flights were running on or close to on time today, so that is good news."