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One Year Ago, Hurricane Irene Struck Maplewood

Thousands were without power and water, some for more than a week; Maplewood township employees worked around the clock.

One year ago, Hurricane Irene swept through Maplewood. The storm knocked out power and running water to thousands of households, caused sewers to back up, sent trees and limbs crashing down, flooded roads and basements and destroyed property.

The , under the direction of Chief Joseph Richardella, pumped out between 300 and 400 basements. The  (DPW) removed over 60 trees or major limbs and 13,000 yards of brush and logs, picked up more than 200 yards of bulk from flood discards and had to replace more than 2,000 square feet of sidewalk. 

“For the first four days we were working 16-hour shifts (and) we had to shut down at night due to safety issues,” recalled DPW director Eric Burbank. “We couldn’t have the guys working in then dark with wires down, operating chainsaws and machines and after working (those) shifts.  The biggest issues we had were roads being closed due to trees down on electrical wires.” 

patrolled scores of intersections and streets with lights out and trees down. "Officers slept (at the Police Building)," said Chief Robert Cimino.  "They were out on the roads as trees were falling, in a highly dangerous situation." Police also as the water started to rise.

Robert Roe worked closely with New Jersey American Water Company (NJAWC) on the   The township designated . Township Administrator Joseph Manning coordinated the emergency efforts. 

“We were well prepared for the storm in those areas under our control,” said Mayor Vic DeLuca recently. “We were very frustrated with the responses from the water company. No one anticipated that the It was difficult for all of us because there was no clear answer on

The township set up a water distribution site at the Maplewood Community Pool, and obtained a mobile water tank for emergency needs. 

“ for some residents was unacceptable,” said DeLuca, who was in frequent contact with NJAWC, as well as with PSE&G and Gov. Chris Christie’s office throughout the crisis. 

“The , both proactive and responsive,” DeLuca said. “The residents were also troopers, putting up with no water.” 

Throughout the storm, Maplewood Patch reported on , and . Our reporters took  and in . We also covered the severe flooding of tiny, largely forgotten .

Maplewood eventually received a total of $183,500 in Federal Emergency and Management Association (FEMA) funding for emergency service reimbursement, and requests for river wall damage and building repair are still pending.

One year later, is Maplewood better prepared for the next natural disaster or emergency? DeLuca said the township had learned lessons from the hurricane. “The whole experience taught us how interdependent we are with other levels of government and the utility companies,” he said.

One bright spot is that the newly constructed Short Hills pumping station will no longer be susceptible to flooding.

"You can never account for every contingency," said Chief Cimino. "You need to adapt to the situation as it is developing. Overall, the response was good." 

DeLuca provided Patch with a list of steps the township has taken or are working on, including installing a backup generator at the DeHart Center and purchasing a solar-powered electronic sign to broadcast emergency information.  The complete list can be found in this article.

Derek Junkins September 01, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Has it really been a year already? How time flies.

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