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Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout runs on his two-run home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Boston Red Sox in Boston, Saturday, Aug. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

National Weather Service confirms a tornado in Millville last week

New Jersey has a late addition to the tornado count in this active severe weather year.

The National Weather Service on Saturday confirmed that a tornado struck Millville last Wednesday.

About 6:40 p.m., a tornado, 10 yards in diameter, briefly touched down in the Cumberland County city.

The EF-0 tornado, with 70 mph winds, tore through a field of solar panels adjacent to the Millville Sewer Department Facility. It then went into nearby woods, snapping at least one tree and damaging a couple of others, before lifting, the National Weather Service in Mount Holly said.

That may not be the last of the tornadoes for the year either. Actually, it may not be the last of the tornadoes in the week after the touchdown.

As of Monday night, the Storm Prediction Center, a government agency in Oklahoma, placed South Jersey in a level 3 of 5, enhanced risk of severe weather on Tuesday. That means “numerous severe storms are possible,” according to the SPC. While storms will start as early as 9 to 11 a.m., the risk for severe weather will be between 6 p.m. and midnight. Damaging winds and isolated pockets of roadway flooding will be expected. A weak tornado or two will again be a concern, along with pockets of small hail.

Joe Miketta, warning coordination meteorologist for the NWS, said the internet age helped spot and confirm the tornado, even days after it happened.

“We did it remotely. We saw some interested signatures on the radar that indicated possible rotation. ... We got a report through the SKYWARN email (volunteer program of 350,000 to 400,000 severe weather spotters) that there was damage in Millville,” said Miketta.

Miketta said someone reached out to the service’s office and said there was a circular wind pattern in the air.

Directional shear, a change in wind direction with varying altitudes, was on the radar, and the volunteers confirmed it for them.

This brings the number of New Jersey tornadoes to eight in 2019. According to Dave Robinson, the New Jersey state climatologist, this puts 2019 in a tie for third, along with 1973 and 1990, for most annual twisters since 1951. Second place goes to 1987 with nine tornadoes, while 1989 almost doubles that amount for the top spot, at 17.

“While not unprecedented, atmospheric configurations which help spawn severe weather have been more frequent than unusual,” said Robinson.

A combination of weather patterns have led to the almost weekly threat of severe weather.

Some have just been a result of it being so warm and humid. Robinson said July was the fifth warmest in 125 years of record-keeping.

The unstable air, as a result, has spawned storms. If tornadoes did not spawn from this, heavy rain did, as noted by the foot-plus of rain seen in Stafford Township during the month.

Secondly, early in the summer, New Jersey was on the northern high of a high pressure system. This put the state in the “ring of fire” of storms Robinson said, with storms frequently rotating from the border of warm air from the southern high pressure and cold air to the north.

The larger outbreaks of July 22 and Aug. 7 came on the heels of a large clash in air masses from hot weather to a cooler, drier one.

“The cooler, drier air is denser than the warm, humid air, so as it moves into the region, it helps promote lifting of the latter, thus enhancing storm chances. ... These outbreaks tend to be larger in extent,” said Robinson.

Expect to see the NWS issuing more severe thunderstorm warnings. The Mount Holly forecast office has issued the fourth most-severe thunderstorm warnings out of the near 120 offices nationwide, said Sarah Johnson, a meteorologist for the NWS.

Press Meteorologist Joe Martucci's 7-Day Forecast

Asbury Park embraces e-scooters after new law. Could the rest of the shore follow suit?

Mitchell Rovins and his wife, Susanna, catch some flak from fellow cycling enthusiasts for commuting to work on electric bicycles.

But the two, the owners of Beacon Cycling in Northfield, live in Linwood and can get to work quicker on their bikes than in their car, all without breaking a sweat, Rovins said.

“A guy I know comes up and sees me on my ebike and says, ‘hey man, that’s cheating,’” Rovins said. “And I go, ‘I’m on a bike. You’re in a car. Who’s cheating?’”

Beacon has sold electric bicycles for about 10 years, but interest in them has been “accelerating” since last year, Rovins said.

At the same time, electric scooters have spread to many American cities, evidenced by reports of scooter-involved accidents and scooters from city-sponsored share programs left abandoned on sidewalks across the country. Lawmakers have tried to keep pace with the booming startups that operate them, regulating them or banning them, as they see fit.

In May, Gov. Phil Murphy took the opposite tack and embraced them. Whether municipalities in South Jersey — especially shore points — will follow suit, is still uncertain.

The new law signed by the governor says electric scooters and electric bikes that travel below 20 mph are to be regulated like regular bicycles, allowing them to travel on streets without registration, insurance or a driver’s license.

“Electric bicycles and motorized scooters offer a fantastic alternative to cars, and their use will serve to cut both emissions and congestion in our cities,” Murphy said in a statement. “As we seek to support New Jersey’s Innovation Economy, this bill will help encourage a true re-imagining of urban commuting.”

Atlantic City isn’t buying it, at least not yet.

Earlier this summer, the resort banned electric scooters, electric bikes and electric skateboards on the Boardwalk.

Councilman Jesse Kurtz, who represents the 6th Ward, took up the issue after hearing from constituents that the vehicles had caused accidents on the Boardwalk, including an elderly man who was hit twice.

The ordinance makes exceptions for those using motorized scooters for mobility purposes and those that want to use a motorized scooter or bicycle for a parade.

“I’ve gotten reports that people are still using them on the Boardwalk,” Kurtz said. “And I think that what we have to do is get some signage up on the Boardwalk to inform people of this law, and we also, I think, need to work the enforcement of this ordinance into the patrols of our law enforcement, as well as the Boardwalk ambassadors.”

Ocean City seems to be taking a wait-and-see approach. An existing ordinance bans mopeds on the Boardwalk, but no ordinance specifically targets escooters and ebikes, said city spokesman Doug Bergen.

“Fortunately, electric scooters have not been an issue in Ocean City this summer,” Bergen said. “Adding them to (the) summer mix of pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles would create serious safety concerns.”

Other shore towns have welcomed the transportation option.

Earlier this month, Asbury Park began contracting with Spin to rent electric scooters in the city, a program operated locally by Zagster, which runs the city’s bike share program, according to Mike Manzella, the city’s director of transportation.

The program allows for up to 250 scooters, but 50 are in use as of last weekend. They’re starting slowly, Manzella said, but the scooters are already a hit.

“We have had a lot of rides,” he said. “On average, we have about 5 to 10 times more trips ... per scooter than we have had for the bike share program, which has been in place since 2017.”

Local staff will maintain the scooters, pick them up at 9 p.m. and put them out at 7 a.m. At the moment, renters can leave them anywhere when they are finished, something that has plagued other cities with programs. Soon, Manzella said, they will have to return them to designated ports.

The city implemented the program to improve accessibility for residents who don’t have cars and expand options to get around, Manzella said.

“In addition, we’re always looking for ways to reduce parking demand,” he said. “So if we can get visitors to come into Asbury Park, park a little further, and take a scooter to the Boardwalk, ... that’s a positive for us.”

There is no data yet on ridership demographics. However, Manzella said he saw plenty of young people enjoying them over the first weekend.

It’s the opposite for Beacon’s clientele in Northfield. Customers interested in ebikes skew older, including one “ecstatic” 92-year-old man.

“Some of them are cyclists that say, ‘You know, I used to go out and do 25, 30, 40 miles at a clip, and now I can just barely handle 5 or 10,” Rovins said.

Scott Chambers, the owner of Zippy’s Bikes in Wildwood, said the profile of his average customers for ebikes has followed a similar trajectory, as the tech has gotten better over the years.

He started renting escooters out of his shop on Pacific Avenue this past Memorial Day, as well. Chambers believes he’s the only one to rent them in the shore town.

The city hasn’t passed anything in the way of a ban. Chambers said he notified the city before he started renting them but hasn’t heard back.

“So I’m assuming it was a ‘let’s see what happens’ type of thing,” he said.

Younger people are more familiar with the electric scooters, he said, but some people just want to see what they’re like to drive.

“They’re easier to ride than everyone thinks and they’re just a lot of fun,” Chambers said. “No one has come back saying, ‘This isn’t for me.’”

Next phase of Kil-Tone cleanup unveiled in Vineland

VINELAND — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing a $36 million cleanup of about 40 nonresidential properties contaminated by the former pesticide manufacturer Kil-Tone Co.

There is a meeting Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Gloria M Sabater Elementary School in Vineland, where residents can hear details and ask questions.

The agency wants to remove about 57,800 cubic yards of soil in and around the plant site at 527 E. Chestnut Avenue, with the extent of excavation and cleanup for each property depending on conditions. The properties are between Almond Street and Washington Avenue.

Excavated soil would be sent off-site for disposal and the properties would be restored, according to the EPA.

It is the second phase of a four-phase plan to deal with contaminated soil and groundwater. In phase one in 2016, the EPA began removing contaminated soil down to six feet in depth from 60 residential properties. That work is ongoing.

The company contaminated the soil with arsenic and lead from 1917 to 1926, and the Lucas Kil-Tone Co. may have continued making pesticides there until at least 1933, according to the EPA. It is now occupied by an unrelated and active sign-making business, and is a federal Superfund site.

“They are still dealing with the historic legacy of toxic pollution,” said New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel. “I think EPA is going in the right direction. It’s long overdue, but at least they are moving forward and getting things done.”

New Jersey agencies did little to clean up the site for many decades, Tittel said, and it was added as a federal Superfund Site in 2016.

This phase will cover about 26.5 acres, according to the agency. The EPA will conduct a review of the cleanup every five years to ensure its effectiveness.

Properties in which contamination extends into groundwater will be addressed later in Phase 3, the EPA said, after further assessments are made.

The fourth phase covers the Tarkiln Branch of the Maurice River and residential properties that are within floodplain areas and that have arsenic and or lead contamination from the Kil-Tone property.

Neighbors in 2015 were told by the EPA not to allow their children to play near the four-acre facility. Arsenic causes cancer, among other health problems, while lead is a toxic metal that can damage a child’s ability to learn.

The EPA says it conducted soil and groundwater samples between September 2017 and March 2018. Soil samples at adjacent and nearby properties showed concentrations of arsenic up to 15,900 mg/kg and lead up to 16,100 mg/kg. New Jersey’s standard levels are 19 mg/kg for arsenic and 800 ppmm for lead.

Kil-Tone is one of two active Superfund sites in Vineland. The other is Vineland Chemical at 1611 W. Wheat Road, where arsenic pollution made its way into the Blackwater Branch of the Maurice River.

Other sites in the region are in a long-term monitoring phase, and no physical work is being done.

There will be a meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday to take public comments on the plans, at the Gloria M Sabater Elementary School, 301 So. East Blvd.

Written comments on the EPA’s proposed plan may be mailed or emailed to Sharon Hartzell, Remedial Project Manager, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 290 Broadway, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10007; email: / provided  

Social media video from a person in The Home Depot in Howell on Saturday morning confirms a tornado touchdown in the parking lot in June 2017.

Deputy head of CRDA Marshall Spevak to leave job

Spevak Marshall Spevak

ATLANTIC CITY — Casino Reinvestment Development Authority Deputy Executive Director Marshall Spevak is leaving the agency after about a year on the job, he confirmed Monday.

He is the third of nine high-level executives at CRDA to leave, following last month’s resignation of longtime legal counsel Paul Weiss and the departure of Director of Personnel Robert Gosser.

“We thank Marshall for his contributions to CRDA’s mission over the past 16 months,” said Executive Director Matt Doherty in a statement. “We would like to take this opportunity to wish him well in his new endeavors.”

Spevak, 31, joined the CRDA in May 2018 after getting the political appointment from Gov. Phil Murphy. He was formerly the chief of staff for Assemblymen Vince Mazzeo and John Armato, both D-Atlantic.

He said he is moving to a new position but cannot announce details yet. It will not be a government job but will still involve the worlds of politics and government, Spevak said.

At the CRDA, the Cherry Hill resident made a salary of $150,000 and was responsible for helping Doherty, 45, fulfill CRDA’s mission.

“I love Atlantic City and consider it a second home. It has so much potential,” Spevak said. “Certainly I’ll miss being part of the revitalization of Atlantic City.”

He said a lot of the work he did on a daily basis involved oversight of managing Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall and the Atlantic City Convention Center.

“That was a great experience,” Spevak said. “And I dealt with the esports effort going on in A.C. We made some tremendous strides putting Atlantic City on the map as a destination for these types of events.”

Spevak and Doherty together attended meetings of the Atlantic City Executive Council, a group of leaders who meet regularly to tackle problems highlighted by Special Counsel Jim Johnson’s Atlantic City transition report.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.