An ark would’ve helped

Photo by Karen Zautyk/ Passaic River appears to have targeted this defunct commercial building on River Road in North Arlington. Property was completely under water, while parking lot next door was merely damp.


By Ron Leir

Hurricane Irene kept public servants jumping in Harrison, Lyndhurst and North Arlington this past weekend.
In Harrison, for example, gusting winds blew off part of the roof of a condominium complex at 550 Central Ave. near Davis Ave. at around 6 a.m. Sunday, said Harold Stahl, the town’s Office of Emergency Management director.
Town crews put up protective covering as best they could in the face of 60-mile-an-hour winds to stabilize the damage, but by mid-day they had to return, after the winds tore off another roof section, exposing an apartment to the elements.
“They put up some plastic sheeting to cover up the gentleman’s belongings,” Stahl said.
Shortly after 9 a.m. Sunday, Stahl said, an attendant at the Harrison Parking Center garage called authorities to report what sounded like an explosion and fire in the 1000 block of a S. Second St. plumbing warehouse.
“Firefighters had to effect a forced entry, and it was a tense situation for a while,” Stahl said. But ultimately, the fire – which was traced to a large transformer in the interior of the building – “self-extinguished,” he said.
Also during the morning hours, with high tide at 8:16 a.m., a series of homeowners in the 100 block of Warren St. were confronted with water backups in their basements. “A lot of those homes have sloped driveways carrying the water down,” Stahl said.
And they weren’t alone, Stahl said. Along Cleveland Ave., homes on the first block off Passaic Ave. also experienced flooded basements.
So public works and firefighter crews were kept busy trying to help pump out the water.
Stahl estimated that between “15 and 20” residential basements were deluged.
“And the lower end of Harrison Ave. by the Hess station was under water,” he said.
“We opened the town’s Senior Center on Harrison Ave. as an emergency shelter,” Stahl said, “but, so far as I know, no one came in.”
Town workers also had to clear downed trees and tree limbs in various areas, including a tree that fell at the Harrison Gardens public housing complex and another that fell near Third St. and Cleveland Ave., Stahl said.
“All in all,” Stahl said, “I’d say we came through the storm pretty good and I say that’s because we had phenomenal preparation by all our town officials and workers. It was a real team effort.”
Lyndhurst also had its hands full as the storm flooded basements in homes along Riverside Ave. near Park and Jauncey Aves., infiltrated several of the township’s public schools, trapped cars and other vehicles and felled trees, according to Public Safety Commissioner Robert Giangeruso.
“In the middle of the storm, our volunteer firefighters responded to two house fires, one on Jay Ave. and another on Third Ave., and they used boats to evacuate some residents who had decided not to leave their homes,” Giangeruso said.
“But I want to compliment everybody in our town – our First Aid Squad, Emergency Response Team, DPW, police and fire, our chiefs – and our residents who worked with us – to get the situation under control,” he said.
Assessing Irene’s impact on schools, David DiPisa, the Lyndhurst Board of Education’s school business administrator, said that six buildings were disrupted: Lincoln School had water in the basement; Lyndhurst High School had water in a downstairs storage area resulting from a blown sewer cap and “minor puddles” in a corridor near the gym; Roosevelt School had puddles in a 4th-grade classroom and the gym; Washington School lost some ceiling tiles from water seeping through classroom windows; Columbus School had water in a small multi-purpose room that came in from windows next to the parking lot; and  Jefferson School had puddles inside the building.
DiPisa said he expected to have a damage assessment in hand by this week.
In North Arlington, Mayor Peter Massa said he spent most of Saturday night trying to pump 2 inches of water the storm deposited in the basement of his Eighth St. home. “It came from under the ground,” he said.
“My back gave out at 5 o’clock so then I had to stop,” Massa said. “Now I’m waiting for the pros to get the work finished. Boy, I am aggravated. The last time we had a big storm like this, I got a little backup but nothing like this.”
Around the borough, Massa said “we had a lot of (tree) limbs and branches knocked down but no power lines that I know of. Also, our public works building is under water, as is our high school football field.”


Photo by Karen Zautyk/ The waters had begun to recede, but Passaic River overflow had left quite a mess outside the Bagel Bistro and in adjacent parking lot on River Road in North Arlington.

Due to flooding, River Road was shut down to motorists, he said.
“We got eight and a half inches of rain from Irene and we’ve had nine inches for the entire month of August so, naturally, the ground’s saturated,” Massa said.
In South Kearny, the privately-run HHI Heliport canceled about half of its scheduled weekend flights, “although we flew Saturday morning before the storm,” said Jeff Hyman, HHI chairman/CEO.
“When it finally hit, all our equipment was put away,” Hyman said. “We’re lucky (Irene) didn’t cause any damage.”
Hyman recalled that as one of the conditions for operating, the Town of Kearny required the company to elevate the Passaic River site by 5.5 feet to build above the 100-year flood plain, which, despite the added expense, turned out to be a blessing since at the storm’s peak, “the water from the river was only a couple of feet away from going on the tarmac.”
Hyman said the heliport business is “getting more clients, more fuel; we’re happy about our continued growth.”

Learn more about the writer ...