By Maddy Vitale
The weekend of heavy rains, strong winds and high tides flooded streets in Sea Isle City, making some of them impassable and causing intermittent closure of the Townsends Inlet bridge. Dozens of cars were stranded in the flooded streets and about 20 people had to be rescued from their vehicles.
Mother Nature produced all of the rain, but the motorists were the ones to be faulted for getting caught in floodwaters, putting themselves and the lives of others in danger, Sea Isle officials said.
“Let this be a teaching moment. When we say, ‘Don’t go out. Stay home or turn around,’ those are tried and true statements,” Sea Isle Police Chief Tom McQuillen said Monday. “We really want people to heed the warnings and monitor the media and social media. We will let you know when it is clear.”
Monday afternoon, city workers were dealing with continued flooding, but not as bad as Sunday night, McQuillen noted.
Sunday night’s high tide was enhanced due to the new moon and northeast winds, he explained. The result was higher tide levels, which were slow to recede, creating a lot of flooding.
Whether it was cabin fever, or motorists just believing they could drive through the high waters, the result was the same.
“The roadways should be clear for emergency service personnel,” McQuillen said. “We can’t get to people when cars are stacked up in the roads.”
As chief of police, McQuillen emphasized that the primary concern is people’s safety, but there is no excuse for preventable incidents.
McQuillen said at about 9 p.m. Sunday, when the tide was the highest until midnight, he was on the phone with officers who made the rescues.
“As the storm was occurring last evening, our officers were rescuing people from cars. That takes our resources away from other things,” he noted. “We would prefer people see the water and turn around and go back home.”
The areas of the island most affected by the high tides were the lowest-lying streets between 22nd Street and 29th Street and the areas between 32nd Street and 37th Street on Landis Avenue, McQuillen said.
He and other city officials stressed that the city is vigilant in notifying the public of weather incidents. The city put out its “Reverse 911” notification Sunday afternoon, giving residents much-needed information about the storm.
Sea Isle Public Information Officer Katherine Custer noted Monday that anyone can sign up for Reverse 911 to receive special recorded alerts on their phone during storms. People may also sign up for the city’s E-alerts, which are also sent out when bad weather hits.
For now, the city is in cleanup mode.
There is some concern about Monday night’s high tide, but McQuillen believes the worst is over. No matter what the weather, he said, the city is prepared.
“We are cleaning up and hopefully the worst is behind us,” McQuillen said. “The one thing I would ask people is to please heed the warnings. We don’t need people driving around. We don’t need people jeopardizing themselves or the first responders.”
To sign up for the city’s free emergency notifications people can visit the city’s municipal website at www.seaislecitynj.us.
(Video Courtesy Teri O’Connor)