One Year Ago: Remembering Hurricane Irene
Verona, Cedar Grove officials say they are better prepared for emergencies and learned many lessons in aftermath of storm.
Township officials in both Cedar Grove and Verona are confident they’ve learned their lesson from Hurricane Irene as the one-year anniversary arrived today.
Verona Deputy Mayor Bob Manley said the township had emergency meetings every day leading up to the storm and afterwards to “discuss how we were handling certain things.”
These meetings, and a “lessons-learned” meeting afterward the storm, allowed the township “to come up with a number of plans of action to incorporate at any time,” Manley said.
Verona now uses the Nixle system so residents can sign up and get immediate updates on what is going on, he added, and what they might need to be aware of in such situations.
Verona has added solar panels to police cars for battery backup, worked on setting up better communication between different township departments during emergencies.
The township has also replaced the bridge at Bloomfield and Lakeside avenues, Manley said, to allow for better drainage.
“It handled Irene extremely well,” Manley said.
Cedar Grove Deputy Mayor Robert O’Toole said since the storm that township has worked with the Passaic Valley Sewerage Authority to keep the Peckman River flowing freely.
“There isn't any threat that we know of right now,” he said. “We do have preparations for housing people in gyms, if that becomes necessary.”
O’Toole said, “We also plan, through money that has been set aside, to purchase a generator for the senior complex. This is not just (for hurricanes) but for any emergency.”
Irene soaked the area with as much as nine inches of rain in Essex County, weather officials at Accu-Weather said..
Former Cedar Grove Mayor John Zunic told Patch at the time the area had “dodged a major bullet” after the hurricane left the area around 9 a.m. Aug. 27, 2011 and became a tropical storm.
"We have no power outages reported, no major trees falling, water and sewage lines are all clear, the Peckman River appears to be in good shape,” Zunic said. “We're still concerned about the amount of rain we're having, if the ground loses top soil and roots, we could have some bigger trees topple if we get heavy winds, that's the remaining concern, but it looks like we got through the worst so far."
The only visible damage reported by township officials that day were several large branches on the front lawn of township hall on Pompton Avenue had fallen, but department of public works crews surrounded the damage and cordoned off the area with traffic cones.
The day after Irene, residents in both towns spent the day sweeping, raking and sawing away the storm damage.
Linden Avenue resident David Shatzel complained he and his family were “still without power after 36 hours."
With temperatures in the 60s and low humidity the day after the storm, the weather was ideal for making storm cleanup more comfortable.
The Peckman River, normally placid and quiet, became a raging rapid as water from Irene flowed through the township on its way to the Passaic River, flooding several yards along Little Falls Road and other low-lying areas. However, the Peckman did not breach its banks.
“It (The Peckman) rarely overflows its banks or causes much damage except for hurricane Floyd in 1999,” Robert Bardi, a plumbing and heating contractor in Verona said at the time.
Bardi has lived near the lowest point of Linden Avenue, only a few houses away from the Peckman, for almost 20 years.
“As a plumber, I’ve learned to have a generator ready for our sump pump. We also have high efficiency heating and hot water mounted on our basement wall 36 inches above the floor. But even when we had six to eight inches of rain the weekend of Aug. 13, everything was fine with the Peckman. It held its own.”
As Irene hit Verona, the winds were half as strong as predicted, with occasional gusts toppling trees and branches and knocking out power to isolated neighborhoods. The steady rain began around 6 p.m. on Saturday and it continued raining hard until about 8 a.m. Sunday, dumping over seven inches before ending.
Though there were some scattered power outages and a few minor road closures reported that day, no serious incidents were reported to the Verona Police.
Fairview Avenue, parallel to Verona High School, was briefly closed to vehicular traffic on Aug. 28 because of a downed tree leaning on the power lines in front of the school. A bit further down the road, between Crest Hill Road and Durrell Street, a much larger tree had fallen in the road, narrowly missing power lines.
In Verona, Mount Prospect Avenue was also briefly closed that day.
Despite the relatively minor damage, few cars were seen traveling the storm-battered streets of Verona and Cedar Grove the day after the storm. Most stores were closed, and scattered debris from broken branches littered most yards and streets.
Prior to the storm, Verona Police Chief Douglas Huber, a member of the township's emergency management team, urged residents the day before the storm to have water and supplies on hand and to prepare for possible power interruptions.
Pat and Gary Raff, of Fairfield stopped by the SuperFoodtown on Pompton Avenue the day prior to the storm to stock up on essential supplies, including water, batteries and food for their cat, Cali. They said supplies of batteries and bottled water were depleted wherever they went.