Hurricane Sandy: One Year Later

One year later, there are few physical reminders of the powerful storm that hit New Jersey last year. For many residents, however, the storm has left a lasting impression and a sense of urgency when it comes to storm preparedness in the future.

Hurricane Sandy was by far the deadliest and most destructive storm to come out of the 2012 hurricane season. The hurricane strengthened to a Category 1 storm just before it began to make landfall early on October 29. The near tropical force winds that the storm produced caused widespread damage throughout the state, from Brigantine, one of the first areas to be hit, up to the northernmost parts of the state.

Residents continued to lose power throughout the day as the storm moved into their area. The high winds proved to be too much for many trees, which fell at an alarming rate and quickly blocked off many roads, destroyed houses, and brought down power lines.

Power companies throughout the East Coast were alerted ahead of the storm and warned to expect heavy damage and long work hours in the days ahead. Before the storm hit it was estimated that up to 10 million people could lose power, possibly up to several days following the storm.

Businesses closed and schools shut down around Morris County in preparation for the hurricane, which hit later on in the day. Although the storm began slowly with periodic rain showers and strong gusts of wind, it picked up speed as evening progressed. By late evening, many county residents had already lost power, and many would not have electricity for several days afterwards.

Tom Spring, Director of Public Works in Randolph Township, recalls that fallen trees and downed wires – many of which were live – created serious accessibility problems throughout the township. Spring notes that although there was no flooding, virtually all the roads in the township were blocked by the trees and wires. Despite long hours and hard work, it took nearly two weeks to clean up the extensive damage from the storm. However, Spring stated that it took until January to clean up the remainders of the storm, such as the piles of brush on the sides of the roads.

Rick Blood, Director of Public Works in Roxbury Township, says that his town suffered from downed trees and live wires as well. It was the live wires in particular that delayed recovery and cleanup efforts. Blood recalls the cleanup process lasting into February as the town worked to clear brush from the sides of the roads.

One year later, many residents are wondering whether their town will be prepared if another Hurricane Sandy were to hit tomorrow. Spring and Blood answer this question by saying that there is simply no way that a town can prepare for the damaging winds that occurred with Hurricane Sandy.

However, Spring notes that vital changes and upgrades have been made since the storm to better inform residents when a disaster occurs. For example, there are electronic message boards up in front of the Departments of Public Works community center, and another message board is currently being installed in front of the town hall. The town has also purchased a large, powerful generator that can be transported to any facility when necessary.

In addition to the message boards, the town has installed a reverse 911 system, which residents must subscribe to. According to Spring, the town has conducted two drills in the past year to ensure that everyone who has subscribed to the system gets the alerts.

Roxbury has benefited from improved communications from JCP & L, one of the most prominent power companies in the area, to township residents. In addition, Blood believes that the town is better prepared to support the public in the event that a similar storm hits in the future.

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Kate Halse

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