Superstorm Sandy: Tallying the damage at amusement piers

A pair of otherworldly photos from Superstorm Sandy will be forever etched in my memory of the historic hurricane.

The first photo showed up in much of the mainstream media coverage and became a symbol of the storm: A seemingly intact roller coaster poking out of the Atlantic Ocean off the Jersey Shore like the skeleton of a sea serpent.

The second image ricocheted around the Internet via social media sites and became a symbol of vulnerability and resilience following the storm: An undamaged carousel inside an eerily lit enclosure completely surrounded by water that looked like a glowing jewelry box floating off the New York City coast.

Photos: Hurricane damage at N.Y. & N.J. amusement piers

Along with the death, destruction and despair wrought by the hurricane, Superstorm Sandy dealt a crushing blow to the amusement piers and boardwalks along the New Jersey and New York coasts -- washing away the vacation memories and seaside livelihoods of generations of families.

Let's take a closer look at the damage done by Sandy to amusement piers and boardwalks along the mid-Atlantic Coast:

Casino Pier (Seaside Heights, N.J.)

A popular on-camera hangout for the cast of MTV's "Jersey Shore," Casino Pier was the most visible casualty of the seaside amusement parks hit by Sandy.

The Star Jet roller coaster, submerged largely intact at the end of the damaged pier, has become an icon of the storm and a curiosity to everyone from structural engineers to ride enthusiasts who have been left to wonder why the coaster didn't break apart or collapse.

The 2002 Star Jet, built by Oregon-based E&F Miler Industries, is a 50-foot-tall steel coaster similar to rides found at many smaller amusement parks.

A portion of the Stillwalk Manor haunted house, a Casino Pier dark ride destroyed by the storm, washed ashore nine miles away, according to local media reports.

FunTown Pier (Seaside Park)

Located just a half-mile down the beach from the marooned Star Jet coaster, FunTown Pier suffered far more damage than its neighbor to the north.

FunTown owner Billy Major told the local media that 40 of the pier's 44 rides were damaged or destroyed by Sandy. The amusement park suffered more than $1 million in damages, according to Park World.

Roller Coaster Database now lists all of FunTown's coasters - including the 2005 Mighty Mouse - as severely damaged by the storm and presumed destroyed.

The Tower of Fear drop tower by Utah's S&S Power appears to be one of the only FunTown rides that survived the storm.

Keansburg Amusement Park (Keansburg, N.J.)

The Gehlhaus family that runs the waterfront amusement park across the bay from Staten Island has been able to retrieve nearly all the rides washed away by Sandy -- with some of the pieces found a half-mile inland in front yards and alleyways.

Work crews have already begun the arduous task of removing up to three feet of sand from inside the rides before Keansburg employees can start cleaning and rehabilitating the damaged attractions.

The Gehlhaus family is so certain of their recovery efforts that they've already set an opening date for the 2013 season: April 8.