Storm leaves us with that sinking feeling


Photo by Ron Leir/ Harrison DPW and contractor’s workers are repairing crater that opened on Hamilton St. near Harrison High School last week.

By Ron Leir

The torrents from Hurricane Irene left a burdensome legacy in their path, and many  residents are still reeling from the blow.
The town has filed an application with FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for $222,000 for relief from the destruction left in Irene’s wake. But Harold Stahl, the director of the Harrison Office of Emergency Management and town fire director, says that’s only a preliminary estimate of the damages.
“Normally, they give you a couple of weeks to submit your figures,” Stahl said, “but in this case, we had only a 24-hour window to get it done, so I made sure that I listed our application as ‘open,’ meaning that the numbers could change.”
“But it’s going to go up as more people let us know about their losses,” Stahl added.
The damage estimate filed with FEMA so far accounts for “about 20” Harrison households on Cleveland Ave., Warren St. and Sussex St. who lost property, largely as the result of their basements being flooded, but also includes the partial ripping of a roof at the condominium complex at 550 Central Ave., Stahl said.
Horror stories are plentiful, he said.
“One renter lost everything from his basement apartment and he had no insurance,” Stahl said. “Other people lost furnaces and hot water heaters, and to replace a furnace can run you $10,000 to $12,000.”
“We’re doing everything we can to help these people,” Stahl said, and those residents who did suffer from the ravages of the storm are strongly urged to have “photo documentation” of the damage and to save receipts for any repairs that may have already been made.
“You should be ready to prove your claim to FEMA,” he said.
But Stahl also cautioned that before people get their hopes up for reimbursement, they should know that – as of last week – federal bureaucrats had yet to declare Hudson County a “major disaster area” – the magic words that would trigger a FEMA inspection of this area and processing of damage claims.
“The governor has declared a state of emergency for New Jersey,” Stahl said, and President Obama has echoed that, “but we don’t yet have a declaration from Washington that we are a ‘major disaster area.’ That would open the door for FEMA to come in and help us out.”
Stahl said that the area’s political leadership, particularly Rep. Albio Sires (D-West New York), was exerting pressure to make that happen.
In the meantime, people who have experienced losses attributable to the hurricane but who haven’t yet made that known to the Harrison OEM are invited to call Stahl at fire headquarters at (973) 483-3808.
Harrison officials are also pointing to Irene as the likely culprit for a major infrastructure issue that could have sprung from excess rain deposited by the storm. Related repairs could end up on the bill to FEMA, officials say.
A 5-foot-deep sinkhole was discovered early on Tuesday, Aug. 30, opposite Harrison High School, on Hamilton St. off Franklin Ave.
Fortunately, no vehicles were stuck in the hole and no one was hurt falling into it, officials said.
Public Works Superintendent Ron Catrambone said that a sewer main runs underneath the collapsed roadway and that several lateral sewer lines come off that main.
The town called in an outside contractor, Mauricio & Sons of Kearny, to check it out. As of last week, according to Catrambone, “we’re still not exactly sure where the leak is that has undermined the base.”
With help from the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission, workers used a special camera to inspect the main “but it didn’t show any breaks,” Catrambone said.

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