NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – New Providence was among the worst hit towns during the Wednesday, March 6 storm that dumped 20 inches of heavy snow on the borough, said Mayor Al Morgan at the Monday, March 12 council meeting. Despite having to deal with power outages, hanging wires, downed trees and tree limbs, as well as unpassable roads, New Providence residents witnessed many acts of kindness as neighbors helped each other to get through the epic storm and the mess it left behind.

I have never seen anything like the Wednesday storm, Morgan said. He had been on one of the trucks plowing roads during the storm. The snow came down so fast that when you looked back the street was already snow-covered, he said. He also expressed his disappointment with county plowing operations as heavily traveled county roads, such as South Street, Springfield Avenue and Mountain Avenue, were not cleared in a timely manner. When motorists got stuck in the heavy snow, the borough had to use its own resources to clear the roads, therefore not being able to get to the local roads. 

The borough had opened a shelter for those residents who were left without electricity and heat. “It was truly extraordinary what happened here” with shelter workers, fire department, police and emergency management teams – “everybody worked together,” Morgan said. “It was truly amazing.” There were many acts of kindness with residents helping each other. Many residents and some local businesses donated food to the shelter throughout the day and night. “It speaks volumes of what this town is all about,” Morgan said.

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Councilman Robert Robinson had worked on the shelter during the storm and he told a story of an elderly couple spending the night there. It happened to be the wife’s 92nd birthday which the entire shelter celebrated along with her 95-year old husband. The shelter was not full, because residents who had power came and offered their generators to those who had lost power. Many residents with power had also opened their homes for those less fortunate, he said.

Councilwoman Nadine Geoffroy was away on a family emergency during the storm and left behind her husband, three children, 4-month old grandchild and 92-year old grandmother when the family lost power. The grandmother, who is on oxygen, had to be taken to the hospital. The family posted their dire situation on Facebook which was met with a quick response. Morgan came to shovel their driveway and the road was cleared enough so that an ambulance could come and take the grandmother to Overlook Hospital.

Council President Robert Munoz complemented borough employee Jessica Short and “Dr. Bob” for their efforts at the shelter. Councilman Gary Kapner thanked the entire emergency management team led by Police Chief Anthony Buccelli. He also thanked Avenue Deli and Prestige Diner for their support and food donations. Additionally, he commended the Presbyterian Church for providing residents with a warm-up station. Morgan noted that there are “so many good people out there” and the council should honor them all at a future meeting.

“The clean-up process is going to take a while, but somehow we’ll do it, like we always do,” Morgan said. Usually the brush pick-up starts in April, but the borough will move up the starting date. Borough Administrator Doug Marvin expects the brush pick-up to start as soon as the snow melts. There will be some guidelines as the borough cannot pick up “big trees”. However, tree limbs up to 8 inches (up from the usual 4 inches) in diameter will be picked up. Residents are asked to chop the limbs to a “reasonable length”, approximately 4-5 feet, so that they will be manageable for removal by the Department of Public Works (DPW) employees and their chipping equipment. All brush should be placed on the curb, not on the road and not so that they block the sidewalks, Marvin said.

Marvin noted that some private tree companies have cut down trees on residents’ properties and placed them on the curb. “We will have no way to pick them up,” Marvin said. Although the borough was able to collect brush after the 2011 Halloween snowstorm with limited equipment, the borough is contemplating “getting a brush company involved.” The company could then collect the smaller brush and the DPW could concentrate on larger items. Another option is to have dumpsters available so that residents can fill them with smaller branches. The borough will develop a pick-up plan and post it on the borough’s website. The pick-up priority may be given to the hardest hit areas in the borough.

Marvin noted that if residents have any questions regarding the clean-up process and schedule they should contact the DPW directly by phone or by email. Robinson also suggested that all information be posted on the borough website. “Be patient, we have a small Public Works Department,” Munoz advised.

According to Kapner the DPW used over 800 man hours and 85 tons of salt during the storm. Unfortunately, the heavy snow took a toll on the equipment and repairs are needed, he said. Marvin noted that over the period from noon on Wednesday to noon on Friday the joint dispatch center received 1131 911-calls in addition to 6739 administrative calls. Marvin asked residents not to call to the dispatch center for information regarding power or cable restoration.

Photos shared with TAPinto New Providence through Facebook