Irene causes minimal damage in Galloway, Port Republic

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GALLOWAY – Damage from Hurricane Irene was minimal, according to officials here and in Port Republic.

And while there was mostly calm after the storm, some residents of the South Egg Harbor section of the township were without power until Tuesday. There was a home-invasion robbery reported near where Atlantic City Rescue Mission residents were taken for shelter. Last-minute arrangements were made for Richard Stockton College to assist more evacuees during the storm than Atlantic County was able to care for in its three shelters.

“We’re in the best position we can possibly be in,” Galloway Mayor Keith Hartman said as the storm approached. “I’m absolutely confident that our police and fire and emergency management people are as prepared as they can be.”

Hartman, who visited Galloway’s shelter at the Roland Rogers Elementary School Saturday morning, said he had participated in five conference calls with Gov. Chris Christie in the previous 24 hours.

“He’s making sure that there’s no freelancing,” Hartman said. “A storm of this magnitude requires all of us working together. We in Galloway Township are very much in sync with the state.”

After the storm, Hartman said all emergency responders stopped going out once winds reached 40 miles per hour.

The 911 system was fully functioning, he said, but responders weren’t sent into dangerous situations.

According to Hartman, the fact that a shelter set up for 175 people was already filled beyond that number – counting staff – demonstrated the need for a local shelter.

“That shows the need for a shelter, that shows a need for volunteers,” the mayor said. “We have a shortage of manpower.”

People stepped up to help where needed, Hartman said.

One of them, Deputy Mayor Don Purdy, had visited the shelter earlier, found that supplies were needed from the Red Cross headquarters in Pleasantville and drove his truck there to pick them up. He had also played a key role in Stockton’s handling of some 900 evacuees who were transferred to Trenton and New Brunswick at about 2 a.m. Saturday.

In neighboring Port Republic, Mayor Gary Giberson, who is also the community’s emergency management coordinator, moved the emergency control center from a trailer that is temporarily serving as city hall to the city firehouse.

“I had some great help from the Clean Team,” he said. “These are three Cedar Creek High School sophomores who are computer geniuses. They moved everything and set it all up again.”

“I have been on conference calls with the governor,” Giberson said. “The State Police tells us that Atlantic County is number one when it comes to emergency management.”

Giberson, too, said none of his emergency responders were placed in harm’s way during the height of the storm.

“We’ve practiced this,” the mayor said. “We’re ready when needed.”

Art Masker ran the Roland Rogers Shelter for the Southern Shore Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“The shelter is open to all,” he said Saturday. “We have people being evacuated from the island and people driving up.”

Masker, who said he’d had about two hours’ sleep in three days leading up to the storm, said more volunteers were needed even though sleeping quarters in the gymnasium were becoming cramped.

People weren’t turned away, he said, though some were directed to other shelters in Buena and Richland.

Masker said he was briefing his staff at the shelter regularly and was in constant touch with Galloway Director of Emergency Management Michael Brandenberger.

“He keeps telling me that whatever we need, he’ll get it,” Masker said. “I said, ‘How about a sunny day?’ He said, ‘Anything else…’”

Henry Wise, coordinator of the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services Southern Region, handled food for area EMS volunteers as well as those seeking shelter.

“We had a drill last weekend in Buena,” Wise said. “Even with all the preparation we’re running out of trucks, running out of people.”

Some 5,000 meals were shipped to Roland Rogers, which served as a distribution center, according to Wise.

AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s Mainland Campus in Galloway treated patients throughout the storm, according to Lori Herndon, executive vice president of AtlantiCare and president and chief executive officer of AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center.

“As a resource of critical community infrastructure, ARMC was in regular contact with local and state emergency management officials – including the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services commissioner – as we continued to care for our community through Hurricane Irene,” Herndon said.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Tornetta said it was business as usual at the Mainland Campus in Galloway Township.

“To ensure adequate staffing to care for patients, approximately 200 staff stayed overnight,” Tornetta said.

The Mainland Campus had 284 inpatients as of 8 a.m. Monday, she said. From noon Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday the Mainland team delivered three babies. From 7 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday the Mainland team treated 27 emergency patients – including seven firefighters following a fire in Hamilton Township. The team performed one emergency surgery.

Township Manager Stephen Bonanni, who is also director of public works, was on the road during much of the buildup to and aftermath of the storm.

“As the township manager and a resident of Galloway, I would like to commend our emergency response team including Emergency Management, Fire and Police departments, Public Works and Ambulance Squad for an outstanding effort before, during and after Hurricane Irene,” Bonanni said. “Also a special thanks to AtlantiCare, Stockton, Galloway schools, the Sheriff’s Department, Red Cross, the Salvation Army and countless others for their cooperation during the storm. We are fortunate to have such resources available to our residents in a time of crisis.”

Bonanni said between 1,000 and 1,500 residents were evacuated through the shelter at Roland Rogers and a transitional headquarters at Stockton.

“Galloway Township Middle School was opened as well for approximately 25 township residents,” Bonanni said.

Seven public works employees were busy during the storm, he said, using loaders, backhoes, trucks and chainsaws to deal with flooding and downed trees.

“The coordination between fire, ambulance, police and public works was terrific,” he said. “The Emergency Management coordination was great by Mike Brandenberger, Pete Bacon and Mel Worth. Township residents can feel assured we had everything under control.”

Bonanni said there was one issue of concern, where some 350 Atlantic City Rescue Mission residents were evacuated to the Bethel Christian School in Port Republic without the Sheriff’s Office being notified.

“The township was also unaware,” he said. “That will be corrected next time.”

An 80-year-old resident of Clark’s Landing Road was tied up and robbed in his home.

“Nobody has been charged,” Police Chief Patrick Moran said. “But that’s a pretty big coincidence.”

Moran said the community’s handling of the hurricane was awesome.

“I saw all our local people combine all our talents and all our resources,” the chief said. “We came together. It was a great example of cooperation. I can’t say enough about how well everybody worked together. It was excellent, excellent, excellent. Our crisis management is always good, and it was excellent.”

Except for a couple of shelters the township wasn’t made aware of, Moran said the problems were few.

“The aftermath was really something,” he said. “Our dispatch center received an overwhelming number of calls. They had all the cleanup reports and questions in addition to the regular calls – a couple of days’ worth. The aftermath was really busy. The day after was really busy.”

He said the spirit of cooperation made working with police officers, firefighters, ambulance, EMS, county and state officials pleasant experiences.

“Our residents should know how well everything was taken care of,” Moran said.

Township residents may bring branches from the cleanup of Hurricane Irene to the Galloway Road Compost Site 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Saturday, according to Deputy Director of Public Works Barbara Fiedler.

“This drop-off service is normally only offered on the first Friday and Saturday of each month,” she said. “But due to the high volume of branches that were brought down in the storm, we are opening the site two extra days.”

Proof of residency will be required, Fielder said, adding branches larger than 4 inches in diameter will not be accepted, but may be taken to the Atlantic County Utilities Authority on Delilah Road in Egg Harbor Township or to B&J Recycling on Old Port Road in Galloway, where there is a charge for disposal.

Township Fire Chief Ron Garbutt said his department did a good job.

“They’re always there,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t notice until they need us.”

All five firehouses were staffed during the hurricane, he said.

“We went out for downed wires and trees. There was only one minor fire,” Garbutt said. “It was an adventure. The volunteers took it out of their own time.”

Residents in South Egg Harbor were without power for more than two days, but it could have been worse, according to Neighborhood Watch leader Marcos Barrios.

“They told us we won’t get power back until Sept. 4,” Barrios said Monday. “That’s Sunday. There are no power lines down around here. I asked them where they were getting the power from, Siberia?”

Barrios said he made a series of phone calls, hoping someone could influence the utility company.

His strategy might have worked, because he said that electricity was restored to South Egg Harbor sometime Tuesday morning.

 

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