Effects of Hurricane Irene in New Jersey

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Hurricane Irene
Tropical Storm (SSHWS/NWS)
Hurricane Irene Aug 27 2011 at 2132 UTC.jpg
Satellite image of Hurricane Irene approaching New Jersey
Winds 1-minute sustained: 70 mph (110 km/h)
Pressure 959 mbar (hPa); 28.32 inHg
Fatalities 7 direct
Damage $1 billion (2011 USD)
Areas affected New Jersey
Part of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season

The effects of Hurricane Irene in New Jersey in 2011 included about $1 billion in damage to 200,000 homes and buildings. This made it the costliest disaster in the state's history,[1] though this was dwarfed by Hurricane Sandy the following year. Irene struck the state on August 28, and was initially reported to be the first hurricane to hit New Jersey since 1903; however, post-analysis downgraded Irene to a tropical storm at its landfall in the Little Egg Inlet.[2][3]

Preparations[edit]

A restaurant boards up in preparation for Irene in Ocean City, New Jersey

Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency on August 25,[4] with President Obama reaffirming the declaration by August 27.[5] New Jersey Transit rail, bus and light rail operations were suspended for Saturday, August 27, and Sunday, August 28.[6] That same day, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey suspended incoming flights at the five metropolitan airports under its jurisdiction and the on Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) rapid transit system.[7][8] The Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G) opted to dispatch roughly 6,000 workers in case of power outages, with 840 lineman and 540 tree contractors.[9]

In Cape May County, New Jersey, management director Frank McCall ordered a mandatory evacuation of barrier islands effective on Thursday Aug 25 and all residents from the county Friday at 8 a.m.[10] All Atlantic County shore communities east of Route 9—including Brigantine, Ventnor, Margate and Longport—were placed under a voluntary evacuation at 8 p.m. August 25, and the following day a mandatory evacuation effective starting 6 a.m.[11] All Atlantic City casino resorts shut down on August 26, as the city faced the first mandatory evacuation in history; the city only underwent a partial evacuation during Hurricane Gloria in 1985.[12] At an August 27, afternoon press conference, Christie stated that 90 percent of Cape May County residents had evacuated and announced plans to send buses to the Atlantic City region to urge remaining residents to leave the area.[13] At the same press conference, Christie stated that 1,500 National Guard troops had been deployed in New Jersey.[14]

In Ocean County, all of Long Beach Island was under mandatory evacuation starting at 8:00 a.m. on August 26, while evacuations of the Barnegat Peninsula barrier island to the north were simultaneously underway.[15] To relieve evacuation traffic, toll operations were temporarily suspended on the Garden State Parkway south of the Raritan River and on the Atlantic City Expressway.[16][17] The southbound lanes on the Garden State Parkway south of exit 98 were closed at 8 p.m. on August 26, while east-west bridges and arteries such as Route 70 and Route 72 would be closed to eastbound traffic.[18] That same day, traffic on New Jersey Route 55 south of Vineland,[19] New Jersey Route 47 and New Jersey Route 347 was only allowed to head north.[16]

Residents of low-lying areas of Hudson County along the Hudson River and Upper New York Bay were advised to evacuate.[20] In some areas, evacuation was mandatory for residents of ground-floor apartments.[21]

Meteorologists noted the potential of up to 16 in (410 mm) of rain in some New Jersey locations. The Ramapo River floodgates were opened in an attempt to reduce flooding associated with the possible overflow of the river.[22]

Impact[edit]

The Raritan River at New Brunswick on August 29, 2011, one day after Hurricane Irene landfall
Photograph of Route 18 flooded by the Raritan River in New Brunswick, NJ depicting the flooding damage from Hurricane Irene.

North Jersey, and Central Jersey where flooding was widespread, experienced significant damage.[23] While the storm made landfall next to Galloway and Little Egg Harbor on the southern Jersey shore, South Jersey received little damage and flooding.[24] Floods in Cumberland County were the extent of the damage in the southern part of the state, particularly in Bridgeton, which received damage to infrastructure in a storm a week earlier.[25] Severe river flooding occurred, including Raritan, Millstone, Rockaway, Rahway, Delaware[26] and Passaic due to record rainfall.[27] Highest rainfall recorded in the state was in Freehold (11.27 inches (286 mm)), followed by Jefferson (10.54 inches (268 mm)) and Wayne (10 inches (250 mm)).[28] Record flows were reported at the Musconetcong River in the rural northwest.[29] Eleven reached record levels, and a week after the storm all rivers in the state remained at "moderate flooding level".[30] The flooding affected roads, including the heavily used Interstate 287 in Boonton where the northbound shoulder collapsed from the force of the Rockaway River, and Garden State Parkway which flooded in Cranford from the Rahway River and in Toms River near exit 98.[31] Along the Hudson River, in parts of Jersey City[32] and Hoboken flood waters rose as much as 5 feet.[33] and the north tube of the Holland Tunnel was briefly closed.[34]

At the Trenton Train Station along Assunpink Creek, flooding impacted Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, SEPTA's Trenton Line, and New Jersey Transit's (NJT) Northeast Corridor Rail Line. Engineers reported that the service disruption could last a week.[35] Service was restored to and through Trenton on August 31, barring a few exceptions. According to Executive Director Jim Weinstein Irene cost NJT just under $10 million in lost revenue and damaged infrastructure. The agency was criticized for the system being closed the entire day after the storm.[36] In total, ten deaths within the state are attributable to the storm.[37] A medical rescue squad worker was swept away in flood waters and was pulled from the water early Sunday in Princeton, but did not survive.[38][39]

In addition to major flooding, the combination of already heavily saturated ground from a wet summer, and heavy wind gusts made New Jersey especially vulnerable to wind damage. One of the hardest hit areas due to high winds was Union County in Central Jersey. Fallen trees, many pushed from the soaked ground with their roots attached, blocked vital roads from being accessed by local emergency services. This was not isolated to local streets, but also parts of vital arteries New Jersey Route 28 and U.S. Route 22. Numerous homes suffered structural damages from the winds, and limbs impacting their roofs. Perhaps the most critical damage however due to wind was fallen wires. Around Union County, fallen wires in combination with flooded electrical substations left parts of Union County, including Cranford, Garwood, and Westfield without power or phone service for nearly a week. Many areas with a high number of downed wires did not lose power, as wires on the ground remained live. This includes one documented case in Roselle Park where a 13kV (13,000 volt) primary power line remained down, tangled in trees for four days due to the lack of available PSE&G crews.[citation needed]

In total, approximately 1.46 million customers of JCP&L and PSEG throughout most of the 21 counties lost power.[40] Two days after the storm, 500,000 PSEG customers were still without power, down from a peak of about 928,000 on August 28.[41] By September 3 power had been restored to all but 750, but thousands of JCPL customers were still without service.[40] On September 2, 37,000 JCPL customers were awaiting restoration of service.[42] On Sunday September 5, power had been returned to last remaining 2,000 residents who suffered a power outage.[43] The slow response by JCPL has prompted an investigation[44] by the state's Public Utilities Board. During hearings Kim Guadagno criticised the company's lack of communication in keeping the public informed about the utility's storm response.[45]

Aftermath[edit]

A satellite image of New York City and the adjacent areas of New Jersey. Most water is dark green, but the Hudson River is light brown, and that continues into the bay south of it.
Satellite image of sediment from Irene in the Hudson River estuary in New York City and northeastern New Jersey

Flooding in some parts of the state continued for another three days.[46][47] On August 29, the state governor asked President Obama to expedite release of emergency funds to the state. The President was scheduled to tour Paterson on September 4 to view damage to the area.[48][49] The city, on August 31, still counted 6,000 displaced persons; three of four bridges crossing the Passaic remained closed.[50] Touring the state on August 31 with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared "This is as bad as I've seen, and I've been in eight states that have been impacted by Irene."[51] The president the same day declared the state a disaster area,[51] making residents of Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic, and Somerset counties eligible for federal aid.[52] Politicians and residents in other counties claimed inconsistency in the designations,[53] and the area was later expanded to 16 counties.[54] Soon after the president's visit, the declaration was extended even further,[55] making all 21 counties eligible for FEMA aid.[56] Obama vowed aid would be void of politics.[57]

More than 31,000 residents filed assistance claims through FEMA, and within two weeks nearly $38 million had been disbursed with others pending. Hardest-hit counties were Bergen and Passaic in the northeast, each with more than 4,000 claims.[58] Prior funding will be used to purchase homes in flood-prone areas, notably at Lost Valley section of Manville on the Raritan River[59][60][61] While the deadline for applications for disaster relief was set as October 31, as of September 28 more than 54,000 residents had shared in the $116 million which had been distributed.[62]

In December 2011, it was announced that eight towns devastated by the hurricane will receive more than $28 million from the FEMA's Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Wayne, on the Passaic River, will receive the most funding from the voluntary program — $6.3 million to buy approximately 56 homes. Pompton Lakes, Little Falls, Lincoln Park, Fairfield and Pequannock will each receive between $2.9 million and $4.1 million to buy out between 10 and 20 homes, Middlesex Borough will receive $1.9 million to purchase about seven homes. The homes will be destroyed, returning the land to the floodplain and preserved as green space.[63] In January 2012, the governor signed a bill introduced by the New Jersey Legislature in November 2011 allowing the use of state's open space funding for the purchase of homes in flood-prone areas.[64][65]

Despite the mandatory evacuations ordered for many parts of the Jersey Shore, the damage and flooding in that area of the state was not as severe as predicted. This miscalculation was met with frustration among many coastal residents that were evacuated out of an abundance of caution. A year later when evacuations were ordered for Hurricane Sandy, some residents were reluctant or skeptical about the storm's potential and their preparations were more lax. This proved very damaging for some as Hurricane Sandy was far worse than predicted.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Climatic Data Center (2011). "Event Report for New Jersey". Retrieved 2012-02-18. 
  2. ^ DeFalco, Beth; Henry, Samantha (2011-08-28). "Floodwaters rise in NJ as Irene moves on". Houston Chronicle. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-09-20. 
  3. ^ Lixion A. Avila and John Cangialosi (2011-12-14). "Hurricane Irene Tropical Cyclone Report" (PDF). National Hurricane Center. Retrieved 2012-02-18. 
  4. ^ Gibson, Ginger (2011-08-25). "As Hurricane Irene nears, Gov. Christie declares a state of emergency to mobilize National Guard". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  5. ^ Spoto, Mary Ann (August 27, 2011). "President Obama declares state of emergency for N.J.". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  6. ^ "NJ Transit Service Information for Saturday, August 27 and Sunday August 28, 2011". New Jersey Transit. August 26, 2011. Retrieved 2011-08te.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  7. ^ "Port Authority to close all five airports to arriving domestic and international flight beginning at noon Saturday, August 27" (Press release). Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. August 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  8. ^ "PATH service to be suspended to be suspended beginning at noon on Saturday 27" (Press release). Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. August 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-27. 
  9. ^ "Irene bringing gasoline shortages, power outages". The Wall Street Journal. Associated Press. 2011-08-27. Archived from the original on 2011-08-26. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  10. ^ "Mandatory Cape May County Evacuation for Hurricane Irene". 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2012-03-09. 
  11. ^ Watson, Sarah (2011-08-25). "Cape May County, Atlantic County and Long Beach Island evacuations ordered; coast under hurricane watch". Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  12. ^ "Atlantic City officials urge everyone to get off island as city faces first evacuation in history". Press of Atlantic City. 2011-08-26. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  13. ^ John Talty, "Hurricane Irene New Jersey: One Million Evacuated, Atlantic City in Danger" (August 27, 2011), International Business Times.
  14. ^ James Barron, "New York City Shuts Down Amid Flooding Fears" (August 27, 2011), The New York Times.
  15. ^ Weaver, Donna (2011-08-25). "Mandatory evacuation of Long Beach Island begins at 8 a.m. Friday". Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  16. ^ a b "State-by-state developments related to Hurricane Irene". CNN. 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  17. ^ "NJ Irene Updates: Parkway tolls to be suspended at 8 a.m. Friday to aid evacuations". Asbury Park Press. 2011-08-25. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  18. ^ Grossman, Andrew (2011-08-26). "Christie Calls for Exodus From N.J. Islands". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2011-08-26. 
  19. ^ "Irene made landfall this morning, heading to Burlington County in a few hours". Burlington County Times. 2011-08-27. Archived from the original on 2012-01-12. Retrieved 2011-08-27. 
  20. ^ Conti (August 27, 2011), "Jersey City, Hoboken and Bayonne have varying levels of evacuation orders for Hurricane Irene", The Jersey Journal, retrieved September 14, 2011 
  21. ^ Whiton, John (August 27, 2011). "Jersey-City-calls-for-mandatory-evacuations-for-some-residents-in-low-lying-areas-opens-Armory-as-another-evacuation-site". Jersey City Independent. Retrieved 2011-09-15. 
  22. ^ Tischler, Susan (2011-08-25). "Cape May County orders barrier island to evacuate Thursday, mainland residents will leave Friday". capemay.com. Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2011-08-25. 
  23. ^ N.J. deals with flooding, damage | Philadelphia Inquirer | 08/28/2011
  24. ^ Scully, Paula (30 Aug 2011). "Town near Irene's eye eludes disaster". Asbury Park Press. Retrieved 1 Sep 2011. 
  25. ^ Barlas, Thomas (28 Aug 2011). "Flooded roads remain a problem in Cumberland County". Press of Atlantic City. Retrieved 1 Sep 2011. 
  26. ^ Sterling, Steven. "Hurricane Irene leads to historic flooding after month's record rainfall". The Star-Ledger. NJ.com. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  27. ^ Hutchins, Ryan. "Fairfield closed off to non-residents after Passaic River overflows into township". The Star-Ledger. NJ.com. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  28. ^ Sterling, Steven. "N.J. rainfall map – storm totals from Hurricane Irene". The Star-Ledger. NJ.com. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  29. ^ "Hurricane Irene causes record flows in Musconetcong River at Bloomsbury", Hunterdon County Democrat, September 2, 2011, retrieved 2011-09-03 
  30. ^ Baker, Al (September 3, 2011), "Amid Mud and Floods, Push to Restore Power", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-09-03 
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  32. ^ Krudy, Edward Krudy (August 28, 2011). "Jersey City, a satellite for Wall St, hit by floods". www.reuters.com. Retrieved 2011-09-15. 
  33. ^ Colanari, Katie (August 28, 2011), "Amphibious truck delivering supplies to southwest Hoboken where flood waters are up to 5 feet deep", The Jersey Journal, retrieved 2011-09-15 
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  35. ^ Karas, David. "Flooding from Hurricane Irene inundates tracks at Trenton Transit Center (with video)". The Times of Trenton - NJ.com. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  36. ^ Rouse, Karen (September 14, 2011). "Hurricane Irene cost NJ Transit $10 million, official says". The Record. Archived from the original on 2012-06-23. Retrieved 2011-09-16. 
  37. ^ Braun, Bob (September 2, 2011), "Lives lost: The N.J. victims of Hurricane Irene", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2011-09-03 
  38. ^ WPVI-TV, DT (2011-08-31). "The 44 victims of Hurricane Irene". 6ABC. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  39. ^ Dowling, Matt. "Princeton rescue squad member dies from injuries sustained in Hurricane Irene rescue attempt". The Times of Trenton. NJ.com. Retrieved 29 August 2011. 
  40. ^ a b Spoto, MaryAnn; Considine, Bob (September 2, 2011), "Gov. Chris Christie bears down on power companies to relight rest of N.J", The Star Ledger, retrieved 2011-09-03, Some 560,000 JCP&L customers lost power from the storm. Power had been restored by yesterday to all but 750 of the approximately 800,000 PSE&G customers affected by Irene. 
  41. ^ Caroom, Eliot (29 August 2011). "Hundreds of thousands of N.J. residents still withoutpower". The Star-Ledger. NJ.com. Retrieved 30 August 2011. 
  42. ^ N.J. power outages: 39,000 customers are without lights, September 2, 2011, retrieved 2011-09-02 
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  44. ^ "JCP&L scrutinized over outages", Asbury Park Press, 2011-09-05, retrieved 2011-09-06 
  45. ^ "NJ residents blas JCPL response to Irene outages", The Record, September 26, 2011, retrieved 2011-09-26 
  46. ^ Grynbaum, Micheal (2011-08-30). "Water Still Rises in New Jersey and Connecticut". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  47. ^ Star Ledger Staff (2011-08-30). "3 days after Hurricane Irene hits, floodwaters continue to destroy homes, close roads". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-08-31. 
  48. ^ Friedman, Matt (2011-08-31). "President Obama to visit Paterson to survey Hurricane Irene damage". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  49. ^ Cityblog (2011-09-01), "Obama to visit Paterson on Sunday and the Overflowing Passaic River", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-09-14 
  50. ^ Dolnick, Sam (2011-09-01), "River, at 100-Year High, Ravages a City That Once Thrived on It", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-09-09 
  51. ^ a b "President Obama declares N.J. a disaster area as residents continue to deal with Hurricane Irene's impact", The Star-Ledger, 2011-09-01, retrieved 2011-09-01 
  52. ^ "President Declares Disaster For New Jersey" (Press release). Federal Emergency Management Agency. 2011-08-31. Archived from the original on 2011-10-18. Retrieved 2011-09-14. 
  53. ^ Khavkine, Richard (2011-09-01), "More N.J. counties pushing for hurricane disaster aid", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2011-09-14 
  54. ^ Giambusso, David (2011-08-03), "Obama extends disaster declaration to 16 N.J. counties with damage from Hurricane Irene", The Star Ledger, retrieved 2011-09-14 
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  57. ^ Kaplan, Thomas (2011-09-04), "In New Jersey, Obama Vows Federal Help, Not Washington Politics", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-09-05 
  58. ^ Goldberg, Dan (2011-09-12), "Bill to provide Hurricane Irene relief fails in U.S. Senate", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2011-09-13 
  59. ^ Manville homeowners in flood-prone areas to get opportunity to sell homes, September 14, 2011, retrieved 2011-09-2011  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  60. ^ Craven, Laura (September 13, 2009), "Manville residents still fear flooding 10 years after Hurricane Floyd", The Star-Deger, retrieved 2011-09-2011  Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  61. ^ Paik, Eugene (September 25, 2011), After Hurricane Irene, some Manville residents want to sell their homes to borough, retrieved 2011-09-25 
  62. ^ Renshaw, Jarrett (September 28, 2011), "NJ residents have shared $116M in federal disaster aid for Irene", The Record, retrieved 2011-09-28 
  63. ^ Stirling, Stephen (December 10, 2011), "N.J. residents wait for word on divvying of FEMA-issued $28M to buy out flood-ravaged towns", The Star-Ledger, retrieved 2011-12-10 
  64. ^ "Bill a426". New Jersey Legislature. November 21, 2011. Retrieved 2012-01-10. 
  65. ^ Baxter, Christopher (January 9, 2012). "Gov. Christie signs bill allowing towns, counties to use open-space funds to buy flood-prone homes". The Star-Ledger.