A Storm Lesson Learned: Patersonians Won't Be Sent to Bergen County for Shelter During Hurricane Sandy
Friday, October 26, 2012 • 5:47pm
PATERSON, NJ – City residents forced to leave their homes in the upcoming storm won’t have to go to Paramus for emergency shelter, which was the plan used during the historic floods of 2011, officials said.
Paterson will have its own shelter located within the city and the tentative site will be International High School on Grand Street, said Emergency Management Director Glenn Brown.
In 2011, Patersonians were taken to Bergen Community College, a move that was very unpopular among the more than 1,500 city residents who had to evacuate their homes during those floods. Some folks complained that the Paramus location was inconvenient. Others said they were treated as second-class citizens at the Bergen County facility. Brown said the city had to use the Paramus shelter as part of a statewide disaster plan and that the decision was not made by local officials.
Eventually, a city shelter was set up at Eastside High, where there were complaints about such things as the communal showers at the school.
In some respects, the evacuation process may be easier this time around. Dozens of Northside homes that had been occupied prior to the 2011 floods are now vacant and boarded up. They sit in the areas of the city that get hardest hit when floods happen, like Watson, E. Holsman, Bergen, Hillman, N. 1st and Amity streets.
Authorities say the area could get hit with seven to 12 inches of rain from Sunday night through Tuesday, with 50 mph winds that could hit gusts of 75 mph.
City officials met on Friday to map out their storm plans, while Tabatha Mealy of the city health department and Rhonda Thompson, deputy director of the municipal emergency management office, gave storm readiness presentations for residents at the city library on Broadway.
Brown said it was important for folks to heed storm restrictions issued by authorities. “If you recall last year, we had a couple of individuals who ignored the barricades and tried to go around them,’’ Brown said. That resulted in dramatic rescues in the surging Passaic River by city emergency response crews. “That put our emergency services personnel in jeopardy,’’ Brown said.
Brown said this could be Paterson’s eighth major storm in six years. The city’s swift water rescue crews will be deployed and police are ready with contingency plans if most of the Passaic River bridges are closed, as normally happens in major storms. “They have it down to a science directing the traffic through the city,’’ Brown said.
City officials took pride in the fact that there were no fatalities during 2011 floods.
At the library storm readiness presentation, city officials said Patersonians should prepare emergency supply kits that include:
•Flashlight w/extra batteries
•Change of comfortable clothes, socks and shoes, (and always keep a pair of shoes by your bed)
•Water, (3 gallons per person, per day)
•Non-perishable food and canned goods, as well as a manual can opener
•Charcoal and a portable grill
•Waterproof matches and a lighter
•First aid kit
•Emergency phone numbers and out-of-state contacts
•Vital documents in a waterproof bag or container
•Portable rain coats
•Fully-charged cell phone
•Personal supplies, (including sanitary napkins, etc., diapers, games, books, and pet food)
Officials also suggested families map out an emergency exit plan and meeting place and tune in to radio station 1640 AM for story advisories.
The city’s Medical Reserve Corps, (MRC) is looking for non-medical volunteers to help during and after the storm. (Anyone interested should contact Mealy at the health department at (973) 321-1277, Ext. 2412.
“The only thing we can do is wait and see,’’ said Brown.