2011-09-01 / Front Page

Sayreville areas flood from Hurricane Irene

Borough kept residents informed throughout hurricane via Reverse 911 system
BY DEANNAMcLAFFERTY
Staff Writer


Floodwaters left a sandy mark on roadways including the intersection of Main Street and River Road in the Historic Village of Old Bridge, East Brunswick, near the Sayreville border. The area remained closed to traffic on Tuesday morning. Additional photos of the storm’s effects on towns in Greater Media Newspapers’ coverage area are available at www.gmnews.com. 
JEFF GRANIT staff Floodwaters left a sandy mark on roadways including the intersection of Main Street and River Road in the Historic Village of Old Bridge, East Brunswick, near the Sayreville border. The area remained closed to traffic on Tuesday morning. Additional photos of the storm’s effects on towns in Greater Media Newspapers’ coverage area are available at www.gmnews.com. JEFF GRANIT staff Sayreville officials and residents are cleaning up after Hurricane Irene’s wet and wild tour of the East Coast over the weekend.

The storm left trees uprooted, roads flooded and many without power for days.

Three sections of Sayreville were substantially impacted by the hurricane: four residential streets near the South River in the Old Bridge section were flooded and cut off for more than 24 hours, all approaches to Winding Woods Apartments were flooded, and the area around Weber Avenue was mostly impassable due to water, according to Sayreville Police Capt. Glenn Skarzynski, who is serving as acting chief while Chief John Zebrowski is off.

Weber Avenue was of particular concern, as residents there have experienced severe flooding from the South River during major storms. A bill providing $1.4 million to the state Department of Environmental Protection to initiate flood control measures to mitigate flooding from the South River near Weber Avenue was passed in the stateAssembly in July. However, this was no help to residents during Hurricane Irene, because the money will not be put to use until at least the end of the year, according to Borough Engineer Jay Cornell.

“Whenever there is flooding, they are who we think about first,” Councilwoman Lisa Eicher said. “They are always a top priority, as is the Old Bridge section, which also got hit hard.”

In addition to flooding, two house foundations collapsed on McCutcheon Avenue and Buchanan Avenue. There was also a water main rupture on Route 35 that exposed a gas line and compromised the roadway. From Fairview and Lorraine avenues, Route 35 was down to one lane going southbound. No homes were lost, but there was plenty of first-floor damage in town, Skarzynski said.

While damage was widespread throughout the town, with localized flooding, power outages and downed trees, preparation was also robust, and borough officials expressed satisfaction with the local emergency response.

Reverse 911 put into use

The storm provided the Sayreville Police Department with its first chance to test its Reverse 911 system in an emergency situation.

The system, activated on July 1, was put in place to alert residents during times of emergency. Several times throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday, messages recorded by Sayreville Police Sgt. Sean O’Donnell were delivered to residents’ home phones or cell phones that have been registered. Messages warned residents not to drive on the roads and alerted them about a 9 p.m. curfew on Saturday night. Five specific messages were sent out to those living in the Weber Avenue area and Old Bridge section, suggesting they seek shelter elsewhere, remove their vehicles, and place valuables on the second floor, Skarzynski said. “The system is one thing we are very pleasedwith,” he said. “Bombarding residents with information has a calming effect. Between the Reverse 911, the website and Say TV, we pushed more information out to residents than ever before.”

The calls were answered by people, as opposed to voicemail, 13,000 times.

The police department is encouraging residents to connect their cell phones to the system via the borough’s website, www.sayreville.com.

Council members were impressed by the system’s success.

“I think it was very helpful,” Eicher said. “I was on Facebook, and people were updating, ‘Just got a call and roads are clear,’ and things like that. Out of the bad came something good.”

Borough Emergency Management Coordinator Barry Eck orchestrated the town’s emergency response and was aided by the Civilian Emergency Response Team, which Skarzynski said did an exemplary job. The Sayreville Senior Center served as the borough’s primary emergency shelter, with school facilities available if needed. At its peak, the center housed 19 town residents.

Overall, officials were proud of the emergency departments’response during the storm.

“Between the volunteers and the paid staff, it was a well-oiled machine, and I was exceptionally pleased with everyone at the Police Department,” Skarzynski said.

Officials also expressed relief that no injuries or fatalities occurred, and damage was limited to property instead of people.

“Material objects are material,” Councilman Nick Perrette said. “I know some of them are memories, but you can keep them in mind. Alife you can’t replace.”

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