Many residents sought to put the worst behind them this weekend as they sought relief from the worst ever-recorded storm to slam against the Jersey Shore.
While power returned to most of New Jersey this weekend; Monmouth and Ocean counties remained mostly in the dark, with barely 50 percent of the coastline's communities having any service neary a week after Hurricane Sandy first struck.
New Jersey Natural Gas technicians were making on-the-ground inspections to the company's systems two days after valves were closed to two barrier islands. Embers from fires could still be seen from aerial photography, all near a new inlet that was formed where the Atlantic Ocean breached into the Barnegat Bay, in Mantoloking.
The inspections represent the first step in a "sequential process to restore service," the company said in a statement Saturday.
One-by-one, meanwhile, the lights flickered on for residents of Point Pleasant Boro and other towns, prompting cheers as soon as they realized they regained their electricity after four days of nothing.
In a blog post submitted Saturday evening, Joellen Gillon thanked volunteers from the Ocean City Baptist Church and summed up the feelings of the many who received help.
"They worked tirelessly and with much grace," Gillon writes. "Never forget that community spirit and friendship still exists, and we will pay this kindness forward."
Still, the grim toll of the storm, some say, has yet to be determined.
Police and National Guard continue to stand patrol over the Jersey Shore's once-lavish barrier island communities and resorts. "War zone" was a typical label used by those few who were able to return to Seaside Heights and Long Beach Island, and see what was there.
Word has spread that the death toll could rise once authorities report what they saw when after they visited the storm-mangled homes of people who refused to evecuate, even after they were ordered to do so.
Ocean County Prosecutor Marlene Lynch-Ford, meanwhile, has announced a Hurricane Sandy Task Force that will pursue and assist local police in investigating looting, burglary, contractor scams and price gouging.
The announcement came amid growing fears of crimes of opportunity, and the presence of State Police and National Guard in portions of Ocean County.
On Friday, in Toms River's Silverton and Snug Harbor neighborhoods, heavily armed police began stopping every vehicle asking for identification. Non-residents were turned away in devastated parts of Bayville as well.
"With regard to people accused of committing looting, scams, and other storm related crimes against persons and property, I have instructed my assistant prosecutors to consider, as an aggravating factor in charging and bail, recommendations that these crimes are occurring to people rendered particularly vulnerable by an unprecedented natural disaster," she said
A week after the massive coastal storm left historic flooding, life for some in Ocean City, Hoboken, Middlesex County and many other places will begin an attempt at normalcy on Monday - even as they continue to deal with gas rationing and long lines at the pump.
Like many schools throughout the state, Ocean City students will return to classes on Monday morning, and a postponed Halloween trick-or-treating celebration is scheduled for Monday evening.
Others, like Toms River, will stay out for another week.
Voters will go to the polls on Tuesday to cast ballots in the presidential, U.S. Senate and local elections. Special accommodations will be made in various counties to help people vote early.
Throughout the weekend, the Ocean City community rallied to help themselves and others dig out from the effects of the storm and all the problems it left behind.
A week earlier, on Oct. 29, the marriage of Hurricane Sandy and another massive winter storm system made for a near-direct hit on Ocean City on a full-moon tide. Tide levels were higher than any other ever recorded on the island.
Ocean City was spared the devastation that many shore communities in central and northern New Jersey saw, but the island saw widespread flood damage to homes, businesses, cars and city streets. On Saturday, with a mandatory evacuation order lifted, the cleanup and relief effort began in earnest.
A tractor-trailer from the World Compassion Network based in Warsaw, Ind., pulled up to the Ocean City Tabernacle on Saturday. Partnering with the Coastal Christian Church, the Network's volunteers set up a base of operations at the Tabernacle to distribute relief supplies, including food, water and cleaning supplies.
All along Ocean City - similar to what's being done throughout the Jersey Shore - outside contractors continued the work of removing a thick layer of sand from streets on the north and south ends of the island, and sifting it before returning it to the beach.
At the same time, owners were moving sand from their properties to the streeets.
"Our team members have worked long and hard in the days leading up to, during and after the storm," Mayor Jay Gillian said in a Friday message to the community. "That will continue in the days ahead until our beloved community is fully recovered."