One of the Boy Scout mottos is “be prepared.”
When Irene blew into town both Toms River and the State of New Jersey were well prepared. Gov. Chris Christie shut the Garden State Parkway down south of exit 98 to allow for residents to evacuate the Shore area and declared a state of emergency to mobilize assets should they be needed. The mayor and township officials started contingency planning early in the week for Irene’s arrival. By 4 p.m. that Friday Mayor Thomas Kelaher had declared an evacuation of the barrier island for the safety of the residents.
The Police Department, OEM (Office of Emergency Management), EMS (Emergency Medical Services), Public Works, Recreation, Parks and Buildings and Grounds departments together with volunteers from all six First Aid squads and Fire Departments, 35 CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) members, Boy Scout Troop 36, the American Red Cross, CART (Community Animal Rescue Team) and the Toms River School District opened and manned the EOC (Emergency Operations Center) and three shelters to assist residents.
The arena at Toms River North High School was the largest with 359 evacuees. Shelters at Toms River North Intermediate School and Toms River East High School accommodated 179 and 30 evacuees, respectively.
Hurricane Irene hit the area with high winds, torrential rains and high tides. Numerous trees fell bringing down power lines around town, causing loss of power. The rain caused the northern section of the Winding River to flood resulting in the evacuation of the residents of the Homestead Run community Sunday evening. The residents returned to their homes on Monday.
Immediately after the storm moved out employees of the Public Works and Buildings and Grounds departments started removing debris from around the township. Within a week most of the debris was removed and the roads cleared. JCP&L worked to restore power, which took several days.
The president declared New Jersey a disaster area, qualifying the residents for relief for damages incurred during the storm. The Department of Human Services and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) have opened a local office for residents to file claims. The Ocean County office is located at the Brick Township Civic Center, 270 Chambers Bridge Road, Brick, NJ 08723. Residents also can visit: www.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TYY 1-800-462-7585 to register claims.
If a resident has sustained damage to their homes during the storm they must file for a building permit. The Building Department has set up a process to expedite the issuance of the permits. Please call the township business administrator at 732-341-1000 ext 8212 and give your name, address and lot and block of your property and the date you filed the permit and indicate that the damage was the result of Hurricane Irene, and we will work with the Building Inspection Department to expedite the permits providing that all forms required under the State Uniform Construction Code are in order.
We are all extremely fortunate in Toms River that there were no injuries or loss of life during Hurricane Irene. This was due in large part to the fact that Toms River officials and departments had planned for and were well-prepared for any contingencies. We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to the township employees and volunteers for their invaluable assistance in dealing with Irene.
Toms River Township Council President