‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm

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Officers Edward Bertino and Shawn Owen spend an unusual few hours of work on June 30, cutting downed trees into pieces so they could be moved out of the township streets.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP  —  When most residents awoke June 30 and saw an unbelievable scene. Fallen trees and power lines were everywhere, left tossed aside from the strong derecho storm that whipped through the area around 1 a.m.

But, what most people didn’t realize was that the scene was even worse in the hours before sunrise.

 “It was complete chaos. It was total shock and awe,” said Egg Harbor Township Police Capt. David Druding, who was the duty officer that evening.

Druding said he had to recall all of the officers who had just finished their shift and call in others as well to handle work presented to them by the unexpected storm.

“There was a lot of work done in the pre-dawn hours. We had about four to five hours of hard work just getting the main streets opened up before the motoring public even got out. The streets still looked bad when people were waking up, but they were a lot better than they were right after the storm.”

Public Works Department workers were not on duty in the middle of the night as the police officers were. Many Public Works employees were unable to get out of their streets to get back to work.

So the police had to pull double duty for awhile, Druding said. “Officer (Edward) Bertino happened to have his own chainsaw in the back of his truck and went into action.” Others who also owned their own chainsaws went to work, cutting up the huge trees that were blocking the main roads. Some officers cut the trees while others helped pull the trunks and large branches out of the roads to make them clear for emergency personnel.

Coined the “Lumberjack Brigade” by Chief Michael Morris, the road-clearing crew included Sgt. Charles Super, Sgt. Robert Smith, Officers Paul Weldon, John Dowd, Jody London, Anthony Venuto, Edward Bertino, Shawn Owen, Louis Poletis, Kenneth Winkel, Gary Johnson, Robert O’Donoghue, Robert Harte and Thomas Rocco.

“We needed to clear the main roadways first,” Druding said. “I wanted them to clear north- and southbound access first.”

These streets included Ocean Heights, English Creek, Spruce, Ridge, Tremont Avenues. “We needed to be able to get to people with special needs and emergencies.”

Druding said before they were able to clear the roads, there was an accident at the corner of English Creek and Ocean Heights Avenue that the officers were unable to respond to because of the road closures.

“That’s the difficulty we were presented with,” he said. “A car hit a tree but we couldn’t get to the accident. Luckily there weren’t any major injuries.”

Druding said even after the Public Works Department was able to get employees on the roads with the proper equipment, they were unable to refuel the vehicles because of a power outage at the fueling station which is operated with an electric pump.

“That’s one of the lessons we learned,” he said. “We need to have more generators on call for that and to power up the intersections.”

For nearly two days, police officers were manually directing traffic in the heat along many of the township major intersections.

“Our guys did great, Druding said. “But once we got the generators in place, that was huge.”

He said the department also plans to order additional barricades, LED road flares and portable stop signs, all of which could also be used for special events like the high school graduation.

‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm ‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm

‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm ‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm

‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm ‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm

‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm ‘Lumberjack Brigade’ takes matters into their own hands after storm

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