Lawrence Township officials are, like their counterparts throughout New Jersey and the rest of the Northeast, working hard to prepare for Hurricane Sandy’s arrival.
In a notice posted on the township’s website and emailed to residents around 6 p.m. Friday (Oct. 26), the township’s office of emergency management offered advice to help residents prepare in advance of the damaging winds, torrential rain and flooding that are expected – possibly as early as tomorrow – and the long-term loss of electrical service that could result from the storm.
“What we want to bring to the attention of our residents is that, at this juncture, it is important that as much self-preparation as possible should be completed,” Township Manager Richard Krawczun said Friday afternoon.
Residents are being urged to stock up on water and nonperishable, easy-to-prepare foods, as well as flashlights, batteries, first-aid supplies and sanitation/personal hygiene items. The township’s advisory (a copy of which can be found below) points residents to the American Red Cross for a detailed list of recommended disaster supplies.
In addition to the website/email advisory, the township used its Reverse 911 notification system to make sure residents who live in “areas that are prone to flooding” are aware of the approaching storm and to urge them to prepare in advance should it become necessary for them to be evacuated.
Residents of Bakers Basin Road, Princeton Pike and Westgate Apartments who were evacuated via rescue boats after their homes flooded during Hurricane Irene last year were among those who received that Reverse 911 warning, Krawczun said.
In order to make their evacuation as quick, safe and orderly as possible, residents who are at risk of being flooded out are being asked to prepackage a “To Go” bag containing important items like prescription medications and a change of clothes, and to also, if possible, make arrangements ahead of time so that they can be relocated to the home of a relative or a friend.
If necessary, one of the three township firehouses could be used as a “relocation destination” for a small number of residents but that would only be a temporary measure, Krawczun said, indicating that large groups of evacuees or those needing to be accommodated for longer periods of time would be directed to a countywide facility operated by the Red Cross.
Krawczun said crews from the township’s public works department have been working to remove leaves and clear clogged storm drains to help lessen flooding
“We will have two leaf-removal crews out on Saturday to do leaf-removal. Our priorities for leaf removal are areas prone to flooding and emergency routes – Princeton Pike, for example,” he said Friday. “We’re not going to be able to get to all of them. I think it’s important that everyone understand that it takes two months to get all the leaves up off the streets and that’s with four crews working the entire time. It’s just not possible to clean up the leaves in the entire town in only three or four days in preparation for the storm.”
The township’s advisory asks residents to help “remove leaves and other obstructing material” from their neighborhood storm drains. It also urges residents to “secure outside items or bring them inside due to potential severe wind gusts. This includes garbage cans and lawn furniture.”
Because there is a significant chance that power might be lost for an extended period, “we’ve also been in contact, through our health department, with businesses to advise them what may be necessary in the event that power is lost, for purposes of food handling and food storage,” Krawczun said.
He said township emergency management officials have been coordinating storm response plans with Mercer County and state emergency officials for the past several days. Extra township police officers and an extra ambulance crew have already been scheduled beginning Monday, he added.
In addition, a meeting between township emergency management officials and the chiefs of the Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville volunteer fire companies will take place at 10 a.m. today.
Among the topics expected to be discussed at that meeting, according to fire officials, is how evacuations from flooded areas will be handled given the fact that only a limited number of township volunteer firefighters are state-certified to take part in water rescue situations.
Predictions about Hurricane Sandy’s impact on New Jersey has already prompted Lawrenceville Volunteer Fire Co. to cancel its children’s Halloween parade, which was to have taken place Tuesday night.
Lawrence Township Public Schools posted on its website information about how to find out about changes to the schools’ schedules, including when they are closed or have a delayed opening or early dismissal due to inclement weather. A printed copy of the same information was also sent home in students’ backpacks on Friday.
Rider University, meanwhile, on Friday posted a notice on its website stating that while classes and events for this weekend – including an Open House event Sunday on the university’s Lawrence Township campus – will be held as scheduled, the university is watching the storm closely and will provide an update on Sunday as to plans for Monday and Tuesday.
Below is a copy of the township’s website/email advisory:
Important Storm Alert
The Lawrence Township Office of Emergency Management urges residents to prepare for the potential storm which is expected to hit New Jersey between Sunday and Wednesday.
The following are steps to be taken in preparation for the storm.
- Have a Family Emergency Plan ready and review it with family members. Please visit the American Red Cross website at www.redcross.org for details.
- Be prepared to evacuate if local officials instruct you to do so. Make plans to stay with family or friends if it is necessary to re-locate. Have a "To-Go" bag ready with clothing, medications and toiletries in the event you need to evacuate.
- Be prepared for potential long term power outages.
- Leaves: Leaves block storm drains and increase the potential for neighborhood flooding. Remove leaves and other obstructing material away from the storm drain before the storm arrives.
- Secure outside items or bring them inside due to potential severe wind gusts. This includes garbage cans and lawn furniture.
- Check on elderly or infirmed neighbors who may need assistance.
- Exchange contact information with a family member or friend in order for your safety and location to be shared with those individuals in case you are relocated.
For a complete list of hurricane preparedness activities, please visit the New Jersey Department of Health website at http://www.state.nj.us/health/er/hurricane.shtml