By Donald Wittkowski
Sea Isle City, a low-lying barrier island vulnerable to flooding, is planning to install dozens of flashing road signs around town next year as part of an unprecedented early warning system to protect motorists from stormwater.
City Council is expected to approve a $136,717 contract Tuesday with Garden State Highway Products Inc. of Millville, N.J., for the flood-warning system.
Designed to prevent motorists from straying into stormwater, the new system will include about 70 flashing LED roadway signs strategically located in neighborhoods often hit by flooding. The signs are expected to be ready by next March, Mayor Leonard Desiderio said
“I feel the new signs, which will alert people of rising waters in flood-prone areas, will be a tremendous asset to our community,” Desiderio said in a statement posted on the city’s website.
Desiderio is working to secure county, state and federal funding to help defray the cost of the warning system. He announced at the Nov. 13 Council meeting that Sea Isle has obtained $90,000 in funding from Cape May County.
Desiderio and other city officials say Sea Isle’s flood-warning system will be the biggest of its type in any New Jersey municipality.
“That’s going to be the first of its kind in the state of New Jersey,” the mayor said.
City officials explained that the flashing signs would be turned on before flooding actually strikes to give residents and visitors as much advanced warning as possible based on storm conditions and the weather forecast. Electronic sensors would detect rising stormwaters.
One major advantage of the system would be to warn people to move their cars to higher ground before it’s too late to get out. It would also help them avoid driving into areas inundated by stormwater, said Sea Isle Police Chief Tom McQuillen, who is overseeing the project.
Sea Isle struggles with flooding even during moderate coastal storms. A powerful nor’easter that lashed the Jersey Shore on Oct. 27 left some of Sea Isle’s main streets underwater for hours.
At the Nov. 13 Council meeting, the city’s engineer released the findings of a new flood-mitigation study that recommends the construction of pumping stations, drainage upgrades and levees to protect the island from stormwater.
In its never-ending fight against flooding, Sea Isle has replenished its beaches, fortified its dunes, upgraded its drainage systems and rebuilt its roads over the years.
The early warning system is the latest addition to the city’s flood-control strategy. During a Council meeting in May, a representative of Garden State Highway Products gave a sneak preview of the system. At that time, he unveiled a mockup of yellow “Road Flooded When Flashing” signs that would be powered by highly visible LED lighting.
Desiderio said the city is still deciding where the roadway signs will be placed. In May, city officials indicated that the signs likely would be located in the following flood-prone areas:
· Landis Avenue between Second and 19th streets.
· Landis Avenue between 29th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, and Landis between JFK Boulevard and 38th Street.
· Central Avenue from JFK Boulevard to 52nd Street.
· Sounds Avenue and Central Avenue from 56th to 63rd streets.
· And Landis Avenue between 67th and 82nd streets.