By Victoria Cavaliere
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, New Jersey (Reuters) - Britain's Prince Harry toured the rebuilding efforts underway at the Jersey Shore on Tuesday amid crowds gathered for a glimpse of the young royal, and to say goodbye to a popular roller coaster - a symbol of Superstorm Sandy's destruction.
Chilly sea breezes carried the scent of fresh-cut lumber, as the newly repaired boardwalk, still covered with sawdust, quickly filled up with people. There were about 100 spectators - and even more reporters, photographers and TV crews - awaiting the prince and his escort, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
"It's great exposure for the Shore," said Roger Gibson, 27, a manager of a boardwalk staple, Jimbo's Bar & Grill. "It lets people know we are open and ready for business."
Crowds pressed against metal barricades draped with the red, white and blue British Union Jack. Visible in the ocean behind them was the towering frame of the Jet Star roller coaster, washed out to sea by Sandy.
Crews will start work on Tuesday to dismantle and remove the Jet Star and other amusement park rides submerged nearby.
"We are here to say goodbye," said Kim Stone of Bayville, New Jersey.
Her husband, Mark Stone, said the sight of the Jersey Shore landmark stranded in the ocean would certainly leave an impression on Prince Harry. "I'm sure he doesn't want to see it like that," he said.
Casino Pier, which owns the amusement rides, said the removal would take about 48 hours.
Sandy slammed into New Jersey on October 29, ravaging the coastline, causing $30 billion in damage. Prince Harry and Governor Christie began their tour in Mantoloking, a narrow barrier island community between New Jersey and the Atlantic Ocean, where all 521 houses were affected.
When Jersey Shore residents were evacuated, most expected they would return after a few days and were stunned when the devastation turned out to be so extreme that it would be months before they could go home.
The storm killed more than 130 people throughout the U.S. Northeast.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Gunna Dickson)