With Sandy expected to make landfall in New Jersey on Sunday, Springfield officials, employees and emergency responders gathered in town hall to discuss plans for handling the storm on Friday, Oct. 26.
While the impact of the storm is uncertain, Springfield departments have taken stock of their supplies and equipment and prepared to mobilize their resources. Both last year’s Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm factored into the plans, with department heads looking to shore up areas of town most impacted during the 2011 emergencies.
The storm is expected to last from Sunday to Wednesday with the most severe impact anticipated on late Monday. The three-day storm is expected to feature a mix of strong winds and rain exacerbated by the tidal fluctuations of the full moon. With many trees still holding leaves, falling limbs are a major concern
Office of Emergency Management Deputy Coordinator Wally Schultz reported on the County meeting he took part in earlier that afternoon and gave the latest projection for the storm. He said the storm was certain but its impact was not.
“All the weather patterns indicate we’re going to get hit, but we don’t know how badly,” Shultz said.
Locally, Chisholm Community has been designated as the primary shelter for victims of flooding and other storm-related emergencies. Chisholm had been the secondary shelter during Irene and was utilized when the primary shelter, Jonathan Dayton high School, had to be evacuated after sewer back-up. Chisholm has been stocked and prepared in anticipation of the storm.
Shultz said the Red Cross’ involvement was likely to be minimal as they didn’t attend the county meeting and have not said if they planned on establishing a shelter, as they did last year in Clark.
Public Works Director Ken Homlish said that the DPW has spent the last week stepping up leaf collection in hopes of minimizing flooding on roads. Homlish said crews had revisited the areas most severely impacted by Irene in hopes of staving off flooded roads.
In addition to leaf collection, DPW crews have prepped their equipment and infrastructure, such as their pumping stations, catch basin areas and intake grates. Homlish said the machinery at the three storm stations and three sanitary stations are fueled and ready to go. In addition, he said DPW workers in the previous two week walked up and down Riverside Drive cleaning storm water flap valves.
Homlish cautioned residents to clear streets of leaves to prevent flooding. He told Patch that if landscapers have raked leaves into piles on the street to get them back on their lawns to minimize road flooding.
He said that the DPW switchboard has lit up with calls from concerned residents.
“People are in panic mode,” he said.
Residents of the Marion Ave. area of town can use the parking lots at the Municipal Pool and Evangel Baptist Church on Shunpike Road.
Police Chief John Cook said he was marshalling all available manpower, canceling all comp and vacation time for the force for the weekend. Deputy Fire Chief Carlo Palumbo said similar measures were being taken with the Fire Department.
Cook said that he planned to have patrols checking on flood-prone areas at least every 30 minutes.
Palumbo said the department has been busy preparing equipment, including three boats for navigating flooded streets, and communicating with the public through its Facebook page. He noted that the weather prevented some unique challenges.
“Keep in mind that power lines come down and energize the water,” Palumbo said. “Manholes will pop. And when you go down a manhole, you’re not coming back up.”
Megan Avallone of the Westfield Regional Health Department said her office was reaching out to local Medical Reserve Corps volunteers to staff shelters. She said that emergency bulletins concerning boiling water and food preservation were ready to go out. She planned to be in close communication with American Water to determine if water pressure was low or if there were other emergency situations.
Congressman Leonard Lance was on hand at the meeting. Lance said his office was working with FEMA, who had set up offices in Earl, New Jersey and Fort Dix to address Sandy.
At the end of the meeting, participants said the storm's impact could be light, with three to six inches of rain spread over three days (Irene saw over 14 inches of rain).
“If we get three to six inches over three days, I’d be a smiling man,” Homlish said.
Editor's note. Despite an earlier correction, residents of flood prone areas can park at Evangel church. We regret the confusion.