Amid driving winds and teeming rain that signaled the approach of historic Hurricane Sandy, an Ocean Gate icon disappears in flames.

The Ocean Gate Market and Deli, which for decades signaled a welcome to visitors with a hand-painted sign on a massive wall, burned and collapsed as power failed and firefighters struggled to keep water aimed at the hot spots.

Mayor Paul Kennedy said it was a perfect storm of its own. "The power went out around 10 AM," he told us. "That hampered our ability to pump water. Firefighters began drafting water out of Barnegat Bay."

Early investigations lead to speculation that the fire was electrical at the source. Flames shot through the market to the empty apartments above, said Kennedy. Buffeted by raging winds and rain, the roof collapsed.

Debris was strewn through surrounding streets. The borough was closed to all incoming traffic by 3 PM.

Still to be determined is the financial impact of the blaze, compounded by the cost of cleanup efforts. Homeowners who ignored the evacuation order had water restored through an interconnection arrangement with Aqua Water, which serves sections of neighboring Berkeley Township.