As most people were sitting in the dark in their homes listening to the wind there was another world occurring outdoors within the Borough of Fort Lee. IT WAS BRUTAL!!! This was the first time in recorded history that a hurricane made landfall in NJ (Hurricane Irene was a tropical storm when it reached us) It was a fact that PSE&G couldn’t dispatch their manpower until the bulk of the storm had passed without endangering their crews. It would have also been a foolish effort trying to keep up with the quantity of trees and lines that were falling. It was so fast that navigating the streets changed in moments. It was all the police could do to mark streets which were impassible so that the drivers who weren’t smart enough to be off the road wouldn’t utilize them. This was difficult for two reasons, people were driving through them or the wind was ripping the markers out. They had to deal with many power live power lines, apartment buildings which had window blow outs, general medical emergencies, etc.
Due to a utility pole going down on Inwood Terrace the PD and Community center both had their generators automatically kick in. Although this will cost Fort Lee some money it kept our police, fire, EMS, OEM, DPW, and borough officials in contact with each other and outside agencies. It kept the infrastructure of Fort Lee solid and working hard so that the residents were safe. We can only hope that the fuel can hold up or power can be restored soon, since the getting a delivery may be an issue in the short term.
The community center generator which also kicked in during the heart of the storm gave emergency workers a place for evacuated residents. The Office of Emergency Management, at the direction of our officials, opened a temporary shelter. Along with many DPW workers, borough workers, and volunteers, Mayor Sokolich assisted in taking equipment off the truck and setting up cots so that we had a temporary shelter while directing other operations in between trips to the truck.
The same DPW guys who were assisting to unload for the shelter had also been out before and returned to cleaning the streets. By cleaning the streets they were moving or removing what they could without placing themselves into a dangerous situation so they could return and permanently remove it later. Fire and EMS crews were running throughout the storm answering emergencies in a business as usual fashion making sure care was given to those who needed.
After the storm all of these same people who had been working through the night to clean up were still working with little sleep. Some of the police had been working through what ended up being 24 hour shifts. Unfortunately due to the ignorance of many, the streets flooded with cars. Many of the drivers should not have been due to the lack of basic driving knowledge. When there is no power at an intersection which is normally a stop light, it becomes a stop sign where people alternate. It is not a place to play chicken with the traffic crossing the road. The lack of patience was astonishing and it was shameful how people were rushing around when they shouldn’t have been on the roads. If you were, then it should have been understood we were in a state of emergency. The police at the end of this long shift and brutal night now had to deal with this stupidity which was unnecessary.
At the corner of Lemoine Ave and Palisades Ave there was a traffic sign which said it all… GO HOME. This is where people belong unless absolutely necessary so that the cleanup can occur. Everyone was in such a rush to get out that it was ignored that while you are out you are hindering cleanup operations. The traffic we had hindered movement of emergency and cleanup crews trying to get around to everything. And if you haven’t walked or driven around, there was a lot of
The community center has remained open from 7am to 6pm daily as a comfort station. The borough has been providing coffee, a place to keep warm, and a place to charge your communication devices. It is being used as exactly its purpose, a community center. Most people have been taking the time to appreciate this service the borough is providing. Few others have been taking advantage of the space and disrespecting the staff. Like always you get the bad with the good.
This is just some of the things that our officials have done for us while most of Fort Lee was at home. Did anyone notice the sense of community that is occurring outdoors. Neighbors are helping each other and talking to each other. People are coming out of their houses and enjoying life without the complications of electricity. Families are playing games, taking walks together, and spending quality time with each other. One resident on Anderson Ave who has power put an extension cord out with a sign saying “Happy Halloween, Charge your phone here.” All this while, others are away from their families working hard to get life back to as normal as possible, as quickly as possible. For those of us who were powerless during last year’s Halloween storm know that with a little creativity and patience you can enjoy this time.
Main Street not losing power was also a great luck item. It has given people a place to go, things to do, get something hot to eat or charge their electronics. This is the most activity I have seen on a normal day to our own local economy. Even some businesses without power are open to provide cash services to those who had or have been able to find cash.
Yes the lack of power is an inconvenience, but we fared out pretty well compared to many areas. NJ was hit hard, with millions of dollars in damage done in Fort Lee alone. What many don’t know is Mayor Sokolich’s decision to declare a State of Emergency was the ideal one to make. With that we can now recover a large percentage of the extra money we have spent during this crisis. During the last emergency a year ago we were able to recover 75% of all the damage, cleanup, and money associated including manpower.
NJ will recover as Chris Christie had said in one of his interviews. Our economy over the next few years will both suffer and thrive. Sandy has now created new jobs for NJ using the scorched(drowned) earth method. Using this method is frowned upon by humanity but it is successful in modernizing our infrastructure. When the shore is rebuilt and back to its bustling summer retreat the old boardwalks will be remembered, but new boardwalks have been in order for a long time. Many of the buildings and hotels have outgrown the needs of the Jersey Shore and Sandy has now in one swoop made it possible to do that, unfortunately at a great cost of property.
I will add one last note – It is amazing to see how giving many people can be during a crisis such as this... To you I say thank you on behalf of the grateful. It is just as disappointing to see how selfish some people as well… I can’t say what I would like to you as obscenities are not allowed in these blogs.