FARMINGTON — Eleven state police troopers arrived back in Maine Sunday after spending a week helping to keep the peace in Monmouth County in New Jersey, an area that was devastated by Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29.
State police went in teams of two to patrol overnight with the New Jersey State Police in Union Beach, Sea Bright and Atlantic Highlands. The areas received significant damage, including houses destroyed, Maine Trooper Aaron Turcotte of New Sharon said Monday.
He was among 10 troopers, overseen by Lt. Wesley Hussey, who volunteered to go work beside New Jersey State Police.
“We all wanted to be there,” he said. “We knew New Jersey State Police would be tired. It was the right thing to do when fellow troopers have been working long, long hours.”
They would come help Maine if the need arose, he said.
Maine troopers and deputies were among those who offered support to the region, along with state police from Vermont, Louisiana, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi and Michigan.
The Maine State Police command staff and Col. Robert Williams saw Maine's troopers off in Portland in support of the mission on Nov. 4, Turcotte said.
Most of Monmouth County was without power. Prior to their arrival, Turcotte said, workers did their best to clear as much debris as possible from the streets.
There were mandatory evacuations in Sea Bright and other areas, and a curfew was put in place from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. in areas, including those state police patrolled.
Troopers helped combat curfew violations, prevent affected houses from being looted and, in general, kept the peace, he said.
A lot of the houses were abandoned due to the hurricane, and looters had been accessing them by canoes and kayaks on the waterway, he said.
There was still a lot of danger with power lines down.
Affected areas resembled debris fields and were not safe to be around, Turcotte said.
As the week progressed, power was being restored and people were allowed to come back to their houses during the day to see what could be salvaged.
The cleanup was hampered by the nor'easter that that hit the East Coast last week.
“One of the things we noticed was there was still a lot of patriotism,” he said.
Some areas looked like a war zone with houses destroyed and some knocked off their foundations. Boats were resting on and in houses, some knocked inland about 100 yards, he said.
Troopers stayed at Fort Dix about an hour away from the command center.
“People who were affected were very grateful we came down,” Turcotte said.
Some people stopped working on their houses or sifting through debris to come down and thank troopers. It was a good feeling to help them and to be thanked, he said.
American Red Cross and the Federal Emergency Management Agency were there and doing what they could to help the victims of the storm-ravaged area.
“It was definitely a long week,” Turcotte said.