NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Officials are being forced to divert their attention from one crisis to another, as a tropical storm approaches New Jersey.
At the forefront of the emergency concerns are the potential for flooding and power outages if “Tropical Storm Isaias” downs trees or electrical infrastructure.
“We now anticipate that this storm may be one of the strongest to reach New Jersey in years and some outage could last for an extended period of time,” said a message from PSE&G, the utility company for this area.
Governor Phil Murphy encouraged people to contact PSE&G if they experience a power outage in their territory at 800-436-7734.
The utility’s website includes an “outage map” where residents can check the status and extent of outages in real-time.
On August 3, the City of New Brunswick Fire Department warned of “heavy rain and gusty winds,” beginning as early as that night.
A statewide “Flash Flood Watch” would also be in effect for August 4.
“Winds may gust 39 to 70 mph or higher. Rain may total 2” to 4” with amounts over 6” possible,” reads a Facebook post from the department. “Please make sure you secure all outside furniture, canopies, trash cans, etc.”
However, the city says it will attempt proceed with the scheduled trash and recycling collection on August 4, despite the storm.
The crisis comes while government and most organizations are already operating in a state of perpetual emergency, at least since the COVID-19 pandemic first began taking lives here in the Garden State.
Governor Murphy is scheduled to speak to the media in Woodbridge at a briefing with emergency management officials inside the Statewide Traffic Management Center.
An alerted forwarded to residents by the city government through the Nixle emergency alert system said to “plan for dangerous wind of equivalent strong tropical storm force.”
The message also tells residents to prepare for a potential “storm surge”
“Remaining efforts to protect life and property should be completed as soon as possible. Prepare for significant wind damage,” the alert instructed, adding “move to safe shelter before the wind becomes hazardous.”
The alert says to expect property damage, impassible roads and bridges, and “scattered power and communications outages.”
Power outages are more likely to be more prevalent in areas with above-ground power lines, says the alert.
It’s hardly the first time a bad storm has hit the city. But it’s the first time in a long time that such a severe storm hits amid a public health crisis.
Eight and nine years ago, the city saw hurricanes damage property and
New Brunswick saw significant flooding during Hurricane Irene in 2011, and some areas of the city lost power for weeks the following year when the infamous Hurricane Sandy pounded New Jersey’s coastal communities.
Some of the areas most prone to flooding in the Hub City include parts of Joyce Kilmer Avenue and Jersey Avenue near the Mile Run Brook, as well as the Route 18 corridor and parts of downtown near the Raritan River.
City and state officials have discouraged people from traveling during the storm and they especially urge people not to drive into waterlogged streets.
The overlapping crises are already impacting the response to one another.
For example, the county government has delayed the scheduled COVID-19 testing operation planned for Piscataway until August 6.
Meanwhile, the city government also announcing the cancellation of previously scheduled time when homeless individuals are allowed to shower at the city’s high school football stadium.
That program had started in response to the pandemic.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and was an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick in 2018.