Atlantic County avoids damage from wind gusts, but flooding still to come
Even though Hurricane Irene is gone, Atlantic County officials warned of potential flooding.
Spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said the storm caused little damage, but runoff from upriver threatened the 100,000 residents along the Great Egg Harbor and Mullica rivers. The rainfall from Irene — which inundated a wide swath of territory upstream — comes after significant precipitation from an Aug. 13-14 storm, Gilmore said.
“Our most imminent concern is to advise the residents that water is coming,” she said.
Gilmore said the county had released a flooding advisory prior to Irene’s landfall Saturday, but the danger has not passed with the gray clouds.
Hamilton Township Administrator Michael Jacobs said the township had the water level lowered at Lake Lenape dam ahead of the storm in anticipation of the two- to three-day lag time from runoff down the Great Egg Harbor River. Even so, Jacobs said the municipality has been advising residents along the river that water could back up into their yards.
Those waters will most likely arrive today or Tuesday, he said.
“We had (the dam’s locks) open for a couple days before the storm — open as much as we possibly could — but there’s nothing else we can do,” he said.
At 4 p.m. Sunday, Gilmore said there had been no reports of fatalities, serious injuries or structural damage related to Irene.
“Most of the damages being reported at this time are the result of downed trees, wires and debris,” she said.
Irene, which had been forecast to rake the coast as a Category 2 or 3, came ashore at Little Egg Harbor Inlet shortly before dawn with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph, the National Weather Service said.
“We definitely fared better than expected,” Gilmore said.
No damage was evident at the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing or the Shore Mall in Egg Harbor Township. According to Atlantic City Electric’s outage map, there were about 43,000 customers without power in the county as of 5 p.m. Sunday.
South Jersey Transit Authority Spokesman Kevin Rehmann said the Atlantic City International Airport reopened at 10 a.m. Sunday. Although some local roads were flooded, he said there was no damage or flooding reported at the airport.
At the height of the storm, about 3 a.m., Gilmore said the county evacuated 102 people from the Cranberry Run Adult Mobile Home Community in Buena Vista Township due to rising floodwaters. The people were relocated to the Abundant Life Church in Buena Vista Township.
Meanwhile, the nearly 1,000 people who rode out the storm at the county’s three shelters were safe, she said. As of Sunday afternoon, Gilmore said most of those people had returned home. Others who came in by bus would soon be transported back to their homes.
Municipalities across the region began assessing the damage Sunday.
Brigantine police reported minimal erosion and no major incidents during the storm. Aside from the residual flood risk, Jacobs said Hamilton Township had escaped with very little damage.
In neighboring Egg Harbor Township, Gilmore said a bridge on Somers Point-Mays Landing Road between English Creek Road and Zion Road had been damaged. Non-local traffic would be detoured around the bridge until it was repaired, she said. Gilmore said crews hadn’t yet determined the extent or nature of the damage to the bridge.
Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said the township — which has more waterfront than any other municipality in the state — was fortunate to get through the storm with a minimum of flooding and property damage.
“This was a breeze compared to the ’44 hurricane and some of the ones we had in the ’50s,” McCullough, a lifelong resident of the township, said. “But I hope people don’t look at this and say, ‘Maybe we don’t need to evacuate next time.’... I think we just caught a break.”
The West Atlantic City section of the township, which has been inundated by floodwaters from Lakes Bay in previous storms, saw only ankle-deep water in the streets.
“I’m tickled pink by this thing,” said longtime resident and former mayor Jake Glassey. “Nobody got hurt and I didn’t even lose electricity.”
Glassey, who typically rides out even the worst storms, said most of his neighbors evacuated the low-lying community and asked him to check on their homes.
“Everyone left and gave me their house keys,” he said. “I walked around the whole neighborhood ... and there was absolutely no damage on any house.”
On Mount Vernon Avenue in Northfield, neighbors gathered around two trees that fell onto the street and a vacant yard. Julie Perez said that one tree in her yard snapped at about 3 a.m., while the other fell about five hours later.
A telephone pole also snapped, downing wires onto the street.
“It was really loud,” Perez said. “We didn’t know what happened. We can’t clean (this) up by ourselves.”
Richard Keyser, 74, said a heavy limb from his 100-foot-tall silver maple fell onto the garage of his Somers Point home
on West Meyran Drive
at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, a sign that gusting wind was still a problem late into the day.
“I had a big piece of plywood on the big-picture window,” he said. “We had just took it down and set it against the garage when it happened. Luckily, the tree didn’t fall on us.”
Staff writer Steven Lemongello contributed to this report.
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