Weathermen and women on every television network, radio station and webcast said she was coming. And she was coming with a fury.
Usually, they’re wrong or overreacting.
But for Hurricane Irene, which touched down in New Jersey Aug. 27, 2011, they were spot on.
Washington Township saw firsthand what too much rain and wind in too little time can do to a wooded, rural area. There were floods not seen in 100 years, water rescues in the center of town, and by the storm’s fury.
And–brace yourself–Long Valley became stronger for it. Now a year later, at least I think so.
We had fair warning of the storm coming our way, and alerted readers with as much . Little did we know, Irene was going to deliver on her promise.
She rolled into town Saturday night. I can remember doing some last minute work to be ready for the storm; charging electronic devices and setting up times for phone calls with town officials the following day.
I can also remember lying in bed listening to the tree branches snapping and the wind smacking the vinyl siding of my home, and realizing the next morning was going to be rough.
Much to my surprise, the electricity still coursed through our home without a problem Sunday morning. I figured, because of that, the rest of the town was in fairly decent shape.
Then I jumped online and .
According to Jersey Central Power & Light, there were thousands upon thousands of residents without power. Some lost it the night before, others were watching their power vanish as each minute passed that morning.
My lights flickered for about 10 seconds just after 8 a.m. and never went beyond that. It was truly a blessing. And before you curse my name, just know that I felt the full wrath of the late October snowstorm like much of Washington Township. But that's a story for another time.
So back to that strengthening the community thought. My first call of the morning was to Patch photographer and Long Valley resident Christy Ward, who was out of power. She fully admitted, “I’m not doing anything else in the dark here, so where should I go?” And that’s when the fun began.
I caught wind (unintentional pun) of a man being trapped in his car, surrounded by raging flood waters in the center of town, so I asked Christy to head over there with her camera. What came of it was some of the most dramatic photographs Long Valley Patch–and Washington Township as a whole–has ever seen. .
Christy came back to my house to upload the shots to the site and grab some coffee, and I continued to grind out articles, Facebook posts and Tweets to keep the community informed of what was going on in their town.
Later that day and the following .
Volunteer firefighters, most of which were without power in their own homes, were scattered through town removing trees from roadways and pumping out flooded basements.
Police officers whose families were at home in the dark stationed themselves at road closings and attended to sick and elderly persons who were unable to escape their own homes.
And while ire towards JCP&L and the township grew as residents dumped their refrigerators and headed out of town for showers and food, the town was strengthened because of this mess.
From Irene (and ensuing storms later that season), was borne the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, from the Office of Emergency Management to help first-responders in situations like these. .
After catching a great deal of heat from residents throughout northern New Jersey, JCP&L went on a The plan’s outline had the company finishing hundreds of miles worth of work before the end of summer.
But what may have been the most important part of the aftermath was how residents banded together to strengthen the community.
A standing-room only crowd appeared at the in .
Neighbors opened their homes to others for a place to sleep and bathe, and some offered their chainsaws and sump pumps to eliminate remaining damage.
And we had the privilege of seeing it first hand through our site and social media outlets. Residents putting out calls offering help, while others kept distant neighbors in the loop on when the power was returning.
It made us proud to be part of Long Valley, and hopefully you feel the same.