Community response to Hurricane Irene applauded
From the first discussions that Hurricane Irene was going to move up the East Coast and hit New Jersey to the ongoing cleanup and repairs that follow her impact, Ocean County provided an all hands on deck approach to handling the storm.
As a Category 1 hurricane, Hurricane Irene made landfall at 5:35 a.m. Sunday in Little Egg Harbor Inlet. Its rains and winds were felt much earlier on as Ocean County experienced winds anywhere from 61 mile per hour gusts on Long Beach Island to 35 miles per hour sustained in Lavallette along the coast during the storm.
“Throughout the course of this storm we helped provide shelter to more than 2,100 people in 10 different shelters across Ocean County and we responded to more than 5,400 telephone calls,” said Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. “With a storm of this magnitude we can say today we weathered it well.”
Ocean County Road and Engineering department work crews continue to repair a number of county roads, bridges and culverts that took on water and were damaged during the storm. Portions of Route 571 in Toms River, Jackson and Manchester townships took a hard hit from the storm, which undermined approaches to three different county spans. The storm also took down several hundred trees on county roadways.
“At one time there were more than three dozen roads and bridges flooded out in the county, in particular in the western section,” said Freeholder James F. Lacey, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Road Department. “Our work crews have been working close to around the clock in order to get the spans open again so they can be used by motorists.
“We expect the roadways to be open by Friday,” he said. “The county road and engineering department crews should be commended for a job well done.”
Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who remained in constant contact with county staff and the Ocean County Office of Emergency Management throughout the storm, recognized the efforts of county workers who left their homes and families to help before, during and after Hurricane Irene.
In addition, he acknowledged local police and the hundreds of volunteer emergency responders who worked tirelessly in keeping Ocean County citizens and visitors out of harms way.
“From Point Pleasant to Little Egg Harbor Township, volunteers serving fire departments, community emergency response teams, medical reserve corps, first aid squads, municipal offices of emergency management, and a host of others provided invaluable help to our residents and businesses before, during and after the storm,” Vicari said. “The service these dedicated men and women provide to this county is priceless.”
Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Health Department, said that department provided extensive help to some of the shelters that had been opened in the county making certain nurses were available and medical needs were met.
“The efforts of the health department was well-coordinated and provided those people at the shelters with the comfort of knowing their medical needs would be met,” Little said.
Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr. said Hurricane Irene proved a tough opponent to some of the county’s park facilities at first.
“Today I am happy to announce we have assessed our parks and we are all reopened,” he said.
He said the storm caused severe damage to the fishing pier at Berkeley Island County Park and the pier is currently closed.
Vicari said the collective effort of staff and volunteers was a major reason why things went smoothly in Ocean County. He added the assistance from Gov. Chris Christie added an additional layer of security to the county’s efforts.
“From the first announcements of mandatory evacuation of Long Beach Island, to the assistance of Gov. Christie to finally the good news that the Causeway Bridge to Long Beach Island was reopened Sunday afternoon allowing residents to go home, this was a strong partnership forged under difficult circumstances.
“That was a collective sigh of relief you heard in Ocean County when we knew it was going to be okay after the storm,” he said.
Vicari added that with the county in good shape after Hurricane Irene he was inviting back visitors for the Labor Day weekend.
“We want people to know we are open for business and our welcome mat is always out,” he said.