By Lexie Yearly
Strong winds swept through Bordentown Township, Bordentown City and Fieldsboro Oct. 29 from Superstorm Sandy, resulting in power outages, downed trees and property damage.
While flooding had initially been the main concern in the three municipalities, the rain proved to be the smallest factor in the effects of the storm.
Both Bordentown City and Fieldsboro went completely black at the height of the storm.
Downed power lines on Burlington Road contributed to the power loss in Fieldsboro, Mayor David Hansell said, because they provide the borough’s power supply. Fieldsboro’s power was restored in two days with the exception of the chemical company, Stepan Company, located in town. Due to the high power lines that feed the plant, it took longer — Hansell estimated at about a week — for power to be restored to the plant.
Aside from power loss, Hansell said Fieldsboro didn’t suffer too much additional damage.
“We had some trees fall and minor damages to a couple houses and some fences, but there were no major losses here in town,” Hansell said.
Hansell and Fieldsboro’s public works employee worked the next day to clean up the streets and assisted the tree service in removing trees that had fallen on two homes. During the storm, the mayor maintained communications through email and phone with the Burlington County Office of Emergency Management, as did officials from the city and township.
Bordentown Township remained in contact with the county office of emergency management until the township’s email went down the day of the storm. Communication was then switched to the Verizon Wireless “push to talk” system, that uses cell phones and allows contact between groups of people. That system, according to emergency management coordinator Andy Law said, worked very well, and allowed the township to stay in touch with the Mt. Holly office.
Deputy Mayor Michael Dauber estimated about 70 percent of the township had lost power, and noted that Sylvan Glen was the biggest section of town without power, with one area going nearly a week until power was restored.
Downed trees were also a factor, some of which damaged personal property. At least one homeowner had a fallen tree land on a vehicle, and a tree in Sylvan Glen snapped in half and penetrated the back and roof of a home, Law said.
“A significant number of trees fell, bringing lines down, closing streets,” Law said. “The department of public works … worked through the night clearing the roads for emergency vehicles.”
“Once wind speed started to increase, at that point in time we had to bring everybody in, probably around 8 at night, for a good several hours,” Law said.
High winds proved to be the most volatile force of the hurricane. Groveville Road was blocked and the major highways were shut down because the traffic lights had no power. Even the township municipal building suffered roof damage and leaking.
The day before the storm, the township’s emergency management council met to discuss preparations. Law said he brought a list of issues that might come up during the storm, such as managing communication, transportation and power outages, and monitoring individuals whose disabilities require devices run by power (such as oxygen ventilators).
The council rode out the storm in the command center of the police department, monitoring storm progress and the township’s condition through calls coming in and reports back from first responders. The command center did lose power during the storm, and ran on a backup generator the rest of the night.
On Friday, Nov. 2, Law was notified of ongoing power outages in homes and an apartment complex, and set up an impromptu meeting with the Bordentown Regional School District superintendent and emergency management council to discuss the possibility of opening up the high school as a shelter. The meeting was held at about 3 p.m., Law said, and by 7 p.m. that evening the shelter was up and running.
Seven residents spent the night at the shelter, and by late Saturday afternoon the next day, power had been restored to the remaining areas and the shelter was no longer needed, Law said. The opening of the shelter did not affect the school day schedule.
Bordentown City worked to make similar preparations for the storm. Commissioner Zig Targonski said the city shut down the water plant and made sure all city equipment had full tanks of gas. Hope Hose Humane Fire Company also had a list of individuals who needed assistance from oxygen machines and other conditions that would be affected by power outages.
Hope Hose also served as the command center during the storm. Mayor James Lynch estimated about 15-20 calls came in the night of the storm about power outage and fallen trees, but not about personal danger or loss of life.
Targonski said the Third Ward, the section of the city along Park Street opposite the Ocean Spray facility, was hit hardest by power outages, going nearly six days without power. Targonski noted that police were put on duty to patrol the area because of the lingering power outages. He estimated about 15 major trees had fallen in the city, as well as additional branches and debris that had broken off trees.
Thesub station in the city also went down on Thursday after the storm, which knocked out power for a portion of the day in the city and township.
However, the flooding the city expected was never a factor. With flooded basements a common issue in the city, Targonski said many residents didn’t have any issues because the rain was so light during the storm. The only areas that did see an increase in water were the parking lot and boat launch, where the water rose about 18-20 inches, Targonski said.
Had evacuations been necessary, Targonski said, the city would have provided a shelter at Carslake Community Center. However, a shelter for city residents proved unneccessary, he said.
No injuries resulted in the towns from the storm. As of press time, the municipalities still had some branches and debris along curbs, waiting to be chipped or taken, but had all other issues resovled.