Emergency Management Office calls meeting Friday Citywide loudspeakers almost ready; other measures taken as storms move up coast

Public Safety Director Bill Bergin called a meeting of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for Friday to discuss preparation for this stormy weekend.

Three years ago, the Reporter reported that a hurricane making a direct hit to this area could put Hoboken under two stories of water, except for the Castle Point area. While a direct hit is rare, the city was preparing last week for a line of storms in the Atlantic Ocean that was making its way toward (and up) the East Coast.

On Thursday, Tropical Storm Hanna forced evacuations in South Carolina and state of emergency declarations in Virginia and North Carolina. For the Hoboken area, the National Weather Center predicted as much as five and a half inches of heavy rain for the coming weekend. They also predicted another round early in the coming week.

The NWS reported a “Hazardous Weather Conditions Alert” for Friday night into early Sunday, with winds that could approach 40 miles per hour Saturday night.
Storms named Ike and Josephine were also nearing the coast last week.

Bergin said the OEM would order workers to secure their equipment on construction sites throughout the city, and they are asking residents to secure all outdoor furniture.

They were also preparing to work with PSE&G in the event of major power outages.

A warning with information was posted Friday morning on Hoboken’s website.

Police Captain/part-time OEM Coordinator James Fitzsimmons was not available for an interview late last week. Full-time Deputy Coordinator Joel Mestre is currently out on medical leave.

Loud speakers almost ready
A Reporter article three years ago noted that the city planned to bring a public address loud speaker system to town for emergency announcements.

Last year, the City Council voted to purchase such a system. And last week, Bergin said the OEM is in the final stages of getting the system implemented. Bergin noted that when he grew up here, Hoboken had a public address system that would call volunteer firemen to duty. Others have said the system reported school closings and other public announcements.

The city’s Finance Department said that the system was purchased for $118,012 in October, 2007 using funds from a multi-purpose capital improvement bond.

Bergin said the speakers will be housed in 10 to 12 locations throughout the city. The office is currently picking the locations and testing the sound levels.


Hoboken could end up submerged under two stories of storm water if there was a direct hit.


The sound system also includes operational software. Fitzsimmons said in the past that the system can be used to alert the public to street closings, snowstorms, and AMBER alerts for child abductions.

The city has been promising such preparations ever since Hurricane Katrina devastated the southeastern United States in 2005.

According to past reports from the New York City’s OEM, the metropolitan area should expect a direct hit from a hurricane approximately every 90 years.

The last major hurricane to hit the area directly was the “Long Island Express” in 1938, which killed hundreds of people and left 63,000 individuals homeless across Long Island and parts of New England.

City officials have said that in the event of an emergency, residents should proceed to the New Jersey Turnpike and head inland.

Coming in quickly
Although not nearly as prevalent as in the southern coastal areas, Northeast hurricanes can move three times as fast. So while residents in Florida may have days to prepare for an evacuation, residents in Hoboken could have as little as 24 hours to evacuate.

In 1821, a major hurricane hit the area and swelled tides by 13 feet in one hour, flooding much of New Jersey and filling Manhattan with the Hudson and East rivers to as far up as Canal Street.

The geography of this area – tucked away between the New Jersey and Long Island coastlines – allows storms to hit at a right angle, inflicting more damage, according to experts.

To find the Reporter‘s 2007 and 2005 stories on hurricanes hitting Hoboken, go to “advanced search,” or visit this link.

For questions or comments on this story, e-mail tcarroll@hudsonreporter.com.


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