Hurricanes have come and gone in New Jersey over the years, and usually, advanced warning from public officials and media outlets ended up looking like hype – but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
While no lives were lost in Hoboken last year during the unprecedented Hurricane Sandy, it surprised everyone by living up to its hype.
The “superstorm” flooded the lower half of town, trapped thousands people in their homes, cut power to almost every neighborhood, and forced residents to get creative. The unfortunate part was that it made a direct hit on the Jersey Shore at high tide, but fortunately, it was only a category 1 storm. According to a flood map released by the city before Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, a category 2 would flood have flooded all of town except for a “P” shaped area near Castle Point. (A category 3 storm hitting under the same conditions would flood the entire town.)
After the storm departed, an army of volunteers including students and residents came to City Hall to assist officials and the CERT (Citizen Emergency Response Team) in finding needy seniors and others who were trapped. The mayor called in the National Guard and began having daily briefings outside City Hall.
WHY DO I SMELL WET DOG? – David Dougherty and Mex ventured out near Second and Jefferson streets.
There are aspects of the storm that may someday be forgotten, such as the repeated postponement of the beloved Ragamuffin Halloween parade. There were also several odd storms in the ensuing weeks, including a light snowstorm in early November.
Back in 2005, the Hoboken Reporter published a cover story about the city’s vulnerability to a major hurricane. “Much of Hoboken is only a few feet above sea level, so the streets would be flooded if a hurricane hit our area directly,” wrote author Tom Jennemann. “Such a hit could bring a 10- to 30-foot storm surge that could climb two stories in Hoboken and put the streets, except near Castle Point, under water.”
Sandy did not hit Hoboken directly, but hewed to the south. With a little luck, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, will hold no unpleasant surprises.
Since the storm, Hoboken has trained more CERT volunteers and continued to rebuild.
We asked our readers to share their storm stories and photos with us. Here are some of the submissions. (If you sent a story and don’t see it here, send it again to firstname.lastname@example.org and make sure you put “Hoboken Storm Stories” in the subject head or we may not see it.)
Slower pace of life
“Hi, attached is a picture that sums up our week in Hoboken during Hurricane Sandy. This is my boyfriend David Dougherty Jr. and our four-year-old double doodle pup Mex. We're on Second and Jefferson streets. Mex had to be carried to a small swampy grass area across the street to do his business.
We had decided to stick out the storm since we're on the second floor and Hurricane Irene the prior year wasn't too bad. Little did we know Sandy would be a whole different beast.
Without electricity, everyone in our neighborhood stayed positive and was resourceful. During the day we'd stay inside and read or play board games and play with the dog. We still had our gas stove so I made pancakes every morning by candlelight and local friends came over to join in the meal. We actually spent a lot of great quality time at home, something usually rare during the hectic work week.
The storm obviously really slowed down the pace of life. Rain boots inside garbage bags taped to the knee were a necessity trekking through the sewage/oil ridden water. Some local stores like Garden of Eden on Washington St. let cash-paying customers shop by flashlight or headlamp non-frozen/non-refrigerated items which we did to stock up on necessities.
Also while out we'd find people with generators who were nice enough to setup communal charging stations w/ powerstrips where we could charge our laptops/cell phones and finally get in touch with loved ones and bosses/co-workers. Certain local cafes were serving coffee which was a hot commodity, but I heard the health dept. wouldn't let them serve anything else since their fridges were down.
The nights were spent by everyone in our neighborhood on their building's stoop.” – Melissa Sawaya
Checking up on each other
Although we did not have damage in our building, like the majority of Hoboken, we lost power for days. Being on 11th and Clinton, it was pitch black all around our street, scary, especially in the stairwells leading to each floor, since all elevators were out. Those of us who remained in our building really came together, checking on each other, helping out in any way we could. The highlight: as we all realized power would not be restored any time soon, and the food in our freezers would soon spoil, we decided to have a big grill fest, cook everything we had! We set up a table with candles in the community room, shared some wine & had a lovely meal! – Janeen Bellafiore
Twenty-seven children and gallons of milk
Around 3 p.m. on Monday afternoon, the 28th of October, a transformer blew on Madison Street between Second and Third. This marked, to our knowledge, the first power outage of the storm. We were just finishing making pumpkin seeds and they were only half baked.
The next day we awoke and saw that over four feet of water was in our back yard, garage and the street, keeping us all captive, as if on the island of Madison. A neighbor across the street was, by way of his kayak, one of the few able to venture out of the area on Tuesday.
We had found that freezers, so long as they weren't opened, would keep food frozen or cold for up to 72 hours so we coordinated with our neighbors and decided that we'd open ours first. The result was a BBQ of hot dogs, hamburgers, bacon and other meat and there was a steady stream of people through our apartment for a bit to eat, kids to come and play and conversation, much of it having to do with our disbelief of being trapped.
The next day, a couple of neighbors with an SUV braved the waters and made their way to several stores in the surrounding town to retrieve milk and other necessities for the 27 children who live on our block. These guys waded through the oily mucky water still pooled in our back yards to deliver the gallons which were shared among households.
The result our experience resulting from Hurricane Sandy is a reinvigorated community that came together, shared and grew stronger. – Jon Pinn
Nothing prepared us for floods
As soon as I heard that a storm was coming, I drew on my experience living in Florida and began scouring the city for candles, batteries, and food that didn’t need refrigeration. I got lots of odd looks on Washington St. when I asked for “utility candles,” a staple of hurricane survival. I had to do with decorative pillar candles and Jewish memorial candles which I knew would burn for hours. I filled tubs for flushing. Got extra water gallons delivered. We should have been prepared. However, nothing prepared us for looking out our window at Ninth Street and Madison and seeing the Shoprite submerged. Nor were we ready for the six feet of water in our lobby.
For four days, we were trapped with only an iPad for communications. My daughter in NY sent out S.O.S. requests on her Facebook page which were finally picked up by some kind young people in New Brunswick who drove in with a truck and took us to the ferry. These young people were such angels to us, just wanting to help.
On Monday afternoon I was the first voter in line in my precinct.
Since Sandy, we have had at least one additional flood on our street, and still no pumps in sight to help when the next storm inevitably hits. – Lois Gross
Neighbors helping neighbors
My most vivid memory of Sandy is walking down Hudson Street and seeing so many extension cords trailing out the front doors and windows of residents who were lucky enough to keep power. Some provided WiFi passwords, others provided coffee and snacks, still others just provided encouraging words and a place to sit—more helpful and important than they’ll ever know. It was the most amazing show of community I have ever seen. It made me proud to live in Hoboken. -- Allison Singer
Caren Matzner can be reached at email@example.com