A day after a powerful winter storm pummeled the Jersey Shore and dumped up to 18 inches of snow amid blizzard-like winds, most major roads had been cleared and the big dig was well underway.
Officials in coastal communities reported no weather-related deaths or major injuries, and Shore towns were inching back to normal even as snow blanketed the beaches.
Atlantic City Mayor Frank M. Gilliam Jr. said plows operating in frigid temperatures had cleared all major streets and "for the most part, we're fully functioning." Some side streets were still snow-covered, he said, partly because of drifts built by soaring winds.
Police Sgt. Kevin Fair said a water main break on Albany Avenue was the only serious problem Friday.
On Thursday night, with snow falling and temperatures dropping, a fire forced the evacuation of an 18-story apartment building, but by Friday, 300 senior citizens who lived there had been relocated to casino hotels and nearby inns.
"For a lot of the residents, there was fear and angst about being moved out of their abode, and adding fire and snow into that was quite horrific," said Gilliam, who went to the scene at Jeffries Towers on North Vermont Avenue. He praised firefighters and police for helping residents to safety.
"Residents were trapped in hallways full of smoke and were trying to exit, but the elevators were out of service," Fire Chief Scott Evans said Friday. "Someone on the 15th-floor balcony was screaming he couldn't breathe." Scores of residents, many in wheelchairs, had to be helped down a stairwell.
The fire erupted in one of the mechanical rooms. Officials believe the weather was a contributing cause. "We suspect the electric system was overloaded, and could it be because it's been 5 degrees with 30 miles per hour wind blowing at you, and that people were using space heaters?" Evans asked.
In Ocean County, where some towns got 18 inches of snow, most roads were passable, said Tom Curcio, director of the county Road Department. "It was a light snow, and we were able to get it pushed off, and I have to say it surprised me," he said. "The problem we're having is blowouts, especially in areas where there are farm fields, and in the bayfront, where we plow and an hour later it's full again."
Curcio also said five-foot snow drifts created challenges.
In Longport, Mayor Nick Russo said he was glad there were no power outages, which often come with high winds and heavy snow. "People were able to shelter in place and stay warm and safe," he said. However, he is bracing for broken and cracked pipes that could confront city workers. "We are gearing up for when the thaw comes," he said.