Tropical Storm Isaias prompts reminder of emergency preparedness

Tropical Storm Isaias sped through Shamong Township on Aug. 4, taking down trees and power lines and leaving the township without power.

All of Shamong was without power at the peak of Atlantic City Electric’s damage survey, said Emergency Management Coordinator John Lyons. The storm, which made landfall in North Carolina as a category one hurricane, barreled through the area until mid-afternoon. As of deadline, nearly 200 residents were still without power.

“ACE has publicly published that they are working to resolve the majority of the outages by the end of the day (Aug. 6), but point out that some of the more complicated and damaged incident sites may require additional time extending into the weekend,” Lyons shared.

Shamong’s most common storm incident was large trees blown over by the storm that became entangled with wires and communication lines. On more rural roads, the electric company safely removes lumber before sending engineers out to restore power. The National Weather Service in Mount Holly reported peak wind gusts of 53 mph in Tabernacle.

Burlington County officials wanted to investigate why utility companies took  longer than usual to restore lost power.

“Some 86,000 homes and businesses were in the dark on Tuesday right after the storm,” Burlington County Freeholder Director Felicia Hopson said in a press release. “That’s close to the same number that were out here in 2012, when Superstorm Sandy hit. Something is not right when that’s the case, and we deserve answers from the BPU and our utilities,” Hopson requested that rate adjustments be put on hold until an investigation of the utility companies is complete.

Burlington County remains under a state of emergency relating to weather.

Gov. Phil Murphy ordered the same for the whole state on Aug. 4 and 5. There were no rescues or injuries in Shamong as the storm’s quickness alleviated possible flooding.

With rising temperatures, the electric company has hosted pop-up drive-thru events. One was held at the Medford EMS Department on Jackson Road Aug. 6 for area residents to receive cold water and ice packs.

Small businesses, such as the one owned by Mayor Michael DiCroce, offered space for residents to stop by and charge their devices.

Tropical Storm Isaias alerted residents along the Eastern seaboard that hurricane season is in full swing, posing an additional challenge during COVID-19.

“Hurricane season during COVID-19 restrictions is especially challenging, as planning for emergency sheltering and other response mechanisms are still subject to social distancing, indoor head count restrictions and mask/PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) guidelines,” Lyons said.

“The Red Cross has published and shared updated information on handling such emergencies and those have been incorporated into our plans.”

Information on emergency preparedness by the American Red Cross can be found by visiting RedCross.org.

Lyons requested that residents have an emergency kit stocked with food, water, first aid and pet supplies for a minimum of three days; the more days planned, the better.

Residents can sign up for the township’s reverse 911 system to receive emails; text messages; and, when urgent, phone calls about township updates and emergency notifications. Phone users should check their settings to ensure they receive messages in the EAS (Emergency Alert System).

Lyons advised further efforts should be made to sign up for New Jersey’s Register Ready program. Older residents and those with medical conditions would have their information confidentially shared with emergency management as responders do health checkups and arrange for pantry donations.

“Seniors, people with medical devices or loved ones that might need a courtesy check or extra assistance during an evacuation should consider registering with this program,” he added. “To do so, contact 211 or the township office — (609) 268-2377 — and we can assist.”

If and when conditions are safe, Lyons continued, able-bodied residents should check on their neighbors to ensure their health and safety during all emergencies. They can also volunteer with the local fire and EMS company or the Pinelands Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). Information on both could be found by visiting Shamong.net.

Above all else? Have a plan.

“Think about if you have to stay at home, or evacuate, even if just for a short while,” Lyons offered. “Where would you go? What would you need? Consider a go-bag separate from your home supply inventory that you could grab and take essential information, paperwork and supplies at a moment’s notice, if need be.

“How will you communicate with your friends and loved ones?”

Further information on what to include in a disaster plan can be found by visiting the Red Cross or sending an email to ShamongOEM@gmail.com.