Dangerous derecho

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Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP  —  There gets to be a point where you run out of your inventory of phrases like “Oh my!” and “Look at that!” 

Driving through any portion of Egg Harbor Township, looking at the downed trees and trashed power lines caused by the severe storm that blew through early Saturday morning, can easily deplete the words available to express shock.

Nearly every corner has a large, mature tree ripped from its wide trunk, either lying tangled in a mess of electrical wires or plopped on top of homes.

It’s no wonder 60 percent of the township is still without power three days after the rare derecho storm that razed a clear path across Atlantic County and other parts of the country.

“I have never seen such devastation in all of my years here,” Mayor James “Sonny” McCullough said Monday morning. “I am really glad this storm hit at 1 a.m. instead of 8 or 9 in the morning or we would have had tremendous fatalities.”

The widespread power outages sustained here got the attention of Gov. Chris Christie who arrived via helicopter 3:30 p.m. Saturday to meet with local emergency management officials at the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Management on English Creek Avenue. After the meeting, Christie authorized sending additional generators and water to the area to help it recover.

Egg Harbor Township handles all of the emergency calls from its residents as well as those of neighboring towns Linwood and Northfield. During the storm and its aftermath, McCullough said the township’s operations center was also handling calls for Somers Point, Absecon, Longport and Hamilton Township at times.

“We have been handling a large amount of calls. Just from when the storm started until 3 p.m. Saturday when we briefed the governor, we were receiving one call every 40 seconds. We had 2,000 calls just in that time.”

The calls were mostly from people reporting damage and downed lines, but a few calls were surprisingly about non-life threatening issues.

“We had someone call in to complain how their neighbor’s generator was keeping them awake,” he said. “The good and the bad come out in people during times like this.”

McCullough, who serves as the spokesman for the township’s emergency management council, said he was very proud of the police, fire and public works personnel who worked nonstop since the storm started to secure areas and keep the public safe.

“Some of these guys went home to get their own power saws so they could keep working and clearing the trees,” he said.

To give the police force some rest from manning the township’s many intersections, he said he called Atlantic County Sheriff Frank Balles and the State Police, asking for some relief for the officers by rotating shifts.

The township’s volunteer firemen have been out cutting trees and responding to emergency calls since 2 a.m. Saturday morning, according to Chief William Danz.

“Our firemen have been taking a beating,” he said. “We’ve answered so many calls the guys have lost count, and we’re still taking calls.”

The volunteers who also lost power at their homes have been out helping others rather than working on their own homes, Danz said. “A lot of our firemen have no power at their homes, no air conditioning and lost all the food in their freezers, but they are out there protecting the public’s interest as they always do. Our families suffer, but it’s our life. It’s what we do. It’s in our nature and if we had another one this weekend, we’d be out there again.”

Danz said many of the fire companies lost power to their stations. The department was able to borrow a large generator to power up the Cardiff station on the Black Horse Pike, where some firemen’s families have been staying until power and water service can be returned to their homes.

Residents in need also received a little relief, as Atlantic County opened a feeding site 5:30-7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Egg Harbor Township Community Center, where they were able to get meals and beverages.

McCullough said there has been some progress, and the township is returning to normal.

“Slowly but surely we are getting power back,” he said. As of Monday afternoon, the Farmington, West Atlantic City, Anchorage Point and SeaviewHarbor sections had power, but that only accounts for 40 percent of residences, he said.

“I did just hear that the 55-plus community near the high school just got power back, so that’s good,” McCullough said.

McCullough, along with other township and county officials, are in the process of drafting a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency outlining the financial toll the storm has placed on the area as well as a request for reimbursement.

Still, while the cleanup is under way, McCullough advised residents to keep safe and use caution.

“There are still a lot of wires that are hot,” he said.

He reminded residents of the cooling center at Alder Avenue Middle School. The center was opened Sunday-Tuesday July 3 until 8 p.m. Water is available for free, bathroom facilities are open and the air conditioning is running, according to Norman Ruff, building supervisor.

“We had one man who came in yesterday and wasn’t ready to leave for four hours,” he said. “We’re here, we have water and air conditioning and residents can come in to relax for a bit.”

Ruff said one resident came in with empty jugs to fill, he said. She is without running water because she has a well pump that does not operate without electricity.

“I let her back in the kitchen and she filled up and then came back a little bit later with more jugs and we filled them up too.”

Ruff said the county donated 24 cases of bottled water and Egg Harbor Township School District donated 50 more cases. “We have plenty for everyone,” Ruff said.

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Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

Egg Harbor Township Drecho storm damage

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