As many as 30,000 residents are without power today—and may be so for a week---but remarkably there were no fatalities or major injuries to report in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, Union County Emergency Management officials stated this afternoon.
Large portions of the County have experienced flooding problems, with the most severe including Cranford, Springfield and Rahway. These areas are impacted by flooding from the Rahway River, which has crested in many areas. Trees and lines are also down in many parts of the County, causing a dangerous situation. County Police are maintaining a State of Emergency urging residents who do not have emergencies to refrain from non-essential travel. This allows authorities to answer calls, clear debris and power lines, and also permit flood waters to subside.
“Union County remains in an emergency response mode, and we urge all residents to refrain from non-essential travel,” Public Safety Director Andrew Moran said. “We also urge residents to please refrain from dialing 911 for non-emergency situations. There are many emergency calls still coming in.”
Union County Emergency Management officials, Union County Police and local authorities are in the process of conducting a number of marine (boat) rescues to flooded portions of Union County, and are out with the State Police in the Cranford Downtown district. There is also a County unit conducting rescues in Kenilworth. Earlier, rising waters also closed Cranford’s police and municipal buildings. The County installed a temporary command post to assist Cranford in answering all police and emergency calls.
County Police in boats rescued 36 residents at Albin Drive in Springfield, and, with Linden Police, rescued residents from a partially collapsed building on the 1500 block of Hussa Street in that municipality. Several stranded motorists were also rescued in their cars in flooded areas throughout the County.
Overall, flooding, the power outages, and tree damage to homes and apartments are forcing the evacuation of dozens of residents in various municipalities. More than 180 residents are staying in a total of 11 shelters Countywide:
Clark---the Municipal Building at 430 Westfield Avenue (regional shelter-Red Cross)
Cranford—Community Center at 220 Walnut Avenue
Hillside—Hillside Community Center at 274 Hillside Avenue; Hillside Senior Center at 265 Hollywood Avenue;
Elizabeth—Mickey Walker Center, 860 Anna Street; Erxleben Center, 513 Richmond Street;
Plainfield---Senior Center, 400 East Front Street; Emerson Elementary School, 305 Emerson Avenue;
Washington Elementary, 472 Darrow Avenue
Rahway—165 East Grand Avenue; Case Apartments at 365 West Milton Avenue
Residents who need to evacuate with pets may do so at several pet friendly hotels in Union County, including:
Cranford--Homewood Suites (908-709-1980); Elizabeth--The Extended Stay (908-344-4300); The Hilton (908-351-3900); Residence Inn (908-352-4300); Plainfield—Howard Johnson (908-753-6500); Rahway—Hotel Indigo (1-877-270-1392); Springfield—Hotel 304 West (1-866-332-3590)
Several public safety agency operations have been affected by flooding and bad weather conditions, including Cranford as noted above. Plainfield Police, Elizabeth Fire Headquarters and Union County’s Emergency Operations Center were operating on generators earlier today, and Scotch Plains has reported an issue with their radio system, requesting assistance from Union County.
The Union County Ruotolo Building, which houses the Prosecutor’s Office, experienced flooding in the elevator shaft, and water was being pumped out. Runnells Specialized Hospital operated on generated power for several hours before electricity was restored. The Union County Jail and Juvenile Detention Center, were not impacted by the hurricane.
Union County Office of Emergency Management officials are operating their Emergency Operations Center in Westfield. Their efforts involve coordination with municipal, state and federal officials, as well as direct emergency response at the County level.
Residents are urged to remain alert and informed through their local news stations, and can go to www.ucnj.org for safety tips, utility information, response, and any County emergency news during the response and recovery period. Also residents are urged to stay informed through Union County’s emergency notification system, Union County First alert, and can sign up for instant notifications at www.ucfirstalert.org