Springfield Braces for Hurricane Sandy

Officials prepare for storm.

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. 

a October 27, 2012 at 05:21 PM
no offense to anyone but shehady is an idiot. he is a power hungry man whose only goal is to become a permanent mayor in a town that only needs a part time mayor. he wants this as he lives home and has no real job. they talk about saving taxpayers money then how about shehady doing away with the charter study which main goal is to get a full time mayor an shehady would then run. i forgot shehady knows it all which is why they are about to fire westfield and hire a useless board of health from madison who is also further away from us to help us in an emergency such as this. i hope westfield continues to show us how valuable they are in sandy so maybe the fool on the hill ( shehady and hisrepublicans) come to their senses. DO THE RIGHT THING FOR ONCE AND STOP BEING A CAREER POLITICIAN!
a October 27, 2012 at 05:22 PM
pat it has nothing to do with politics it has to do with common sense and whats good for springfield. westfield has NEVER been fired by any town in their history and in fact have a wait list looking to service them. this ist political but apparently u r making it so.
a October 27, 2012 at 05:25 PM
id not worry as once the democrats do win in november i know they will do the right thing and reappoint the board of health with REAL HEALTH PROFESSIONALS instead of a career politician who is so young and naiive in his views. we know mayor shehady watches this board and posts under 5 or 6 fake names. size stop the nonsense we all know u r a phony with phony names online. u dont see rich or david so this. thats because they are professionals and who care about springfield.
a October 27, 2012 at 05:27 PM
DO NOT vote for krauss or fernandez. they are simply puppets for the republican team. they have no balls to stand up to ziad. if they did they would get my vote but they all go along party lines instead of taking care of the people who pay the taxes in this town. us senior citizens are sick of ziad and his crap.
Voiceofreason October 27, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Its also a disgrace the mayor has been abusing the reverse 911 system for campaign purposes and promoting his garage sales. Now in a real emergency people are reluctant to sign up cell phones and emails bc they don't want annoying calls from the mayor about dumb stuff. this is an irresponsible abuse of power.


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