Hurricane Irene blew through Bayonne this past weekend leaving streets flooded and trees downed. City and county workers were left with a lot to cope with, but said the damage could have been much worse.
Downgraded from its original strength by the time it arrived on Bayonne’s shores, Irene still managed to create havoc among residents. The storm flooded streets, yards, basements, and other areas throughout the city, as its winds brought down power lines, trees and other items, making clean up a chore the next day.
Firefighters, according to Fire Chief Greg Rogers, responded to more than 165 calls during a 24-hour period, the most dramatic of which was a transformer fire on Avenue E during the height of the storm.
“The sky was lighted up like a wielders’ arc.” – Fire Chief Greg Rogers
The Fire Department responded to Avenue E between 42nd and 43rd streets on the report of a transformer explosion.
“Arriving crews discovered a flaming transformer and downed power lines threatening a vehicle and house during heavy rains and wind gusts,” Rogers said.
As a result, three houses – 671, 673, and 675 Avenue E – were evacuated as a precaution, and a total of 10 occupants were sheltered in Bayonne due to this event.
“We were also concerned about possible electrocution,” he said. “The sky was lighted up like a wielders’ arc.”
Calling it an exhausting experience, Rogers said the Fire Department did everything possible to help residents during and after the storm.
“The firefighters did an excellent job keeping pace with the large volume of storm related calls,” Rogers said. “They responded to floods, wires down, trees and branches down, wind and water damaged structures, shattered windows, evacuations, and other hazardous conditions. It was a challenging and exhausting storm, but we were prepared and Fire Department operations went well.”
DPW workers said flooding in traditional areas such as First Street near Avenue A was in some places knee-deep as workers waded into the water to clear catch basins and do what was possible to reduce the impact of the storm. Officials said roads were closed near the 22nd Street Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Station, an underpass that routinely floods during high volume rain. Portions of Route 440 were also closed, as was a portion of Avenue E and Eighth Street. Due to high winds and heavy rains, the Bayonne Bridge was closed to traffic except for emergency vehicles.
County officials toured Stephen Gregg Park at about noon on Aug. 28 as workers were busy dealing with downed branches and one large tree that had tumbled over near the monument on Avenue C.
“There was a huge tree that split about 15 feet up in the air, so that the trunk remained in the ground but the rest of the tree was down on the ground,” Freeholder Doreen DiDomenico said. “When we got there, the crew was working diligently on cutting the downed tree and trunks for removal, but I’m guessing the work is continuing well into today [Aug. 29] because of the size of it. This was near the corner of Avenue B and 40th Street.”
She said in other areas around the park, there were mostly downed branches.
“There was a small tree uprooted near the running track,” she said. “We met a park worker who informed us that a branch and power line had fallen moments before near a clean-up crew. They immediately reached out to the sheriff and PSE&G to address the situation, and kept people away. Freeholder O’Dea and I asked people who were walking through the park to please cooperate and leave as high winds could continue to pose dangers for pedestrians. The park was already barricaded from vehicular traffic.”
At one point, Newark Bay overflowed to the lower bulkhead, but by the time DiDomenico arrived, the water had receded.
“When we were there, the water appeared to be slightly risen, but not approaching the walkway. The pond had overflowed its banks,” she said.
She said she was very pleased to see the park workers dispersed all throughout the park and addressing the damage.
Freeholder Chairman Bill O’Dea, who toured other county parks after Bayonne, said the response countywide was generally good, especially in the parks.
He said the Hudson County Sheriff’s Department conducted a number of rescues throughout the county.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.