By TIM KELLY
This is not a drill.
Predictions of three straight days of potentially rainy weather in Sea Isle City and minor to moderate flooding does not yet classify as an emergency. However, Sea Isle officials believe the town’s new high-tech early warning systems will be effective tools in guarding against the loss of life and property should conditions take a dark turn.
“The main goal is to let people know about the possibility (of an emergency) and to provide them with as much information as possible at the earliest time possible,” said Mike Jargowsky, Sea Isle’s Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator.
On Wednesday, a Sea Isle EMS posted statement said a low pressure system off the East Coast and strong gusty northeasterly winds from now through Saturday could have an impact on the low-lying barrier island, according to the National Weather Service.
The briefing said minor tidal flooding was expected with tonight’s and Thursday morning’s high tides and that moderate tidal flooding was expected Thursday night at high tide at 7 p.m. and Friday morning’s high tide at about 7:30 a.m.
Reached on Wednesday afternoon, Jargowsky said the Office of Emergency Management had already made “reverse 9-1-1” calls to the database of subscribers and that the advisory had been posted on police and EMS Facebook pages.
Jargowsky urged that anyone encountering flooded streets turn around and not attempt to drive through the tidal water which can cause significant damage to the vehicle and to property by the vehicle’s wake.
In addition to those steps, Sea Isle announced in March it had installed a system of flood warning signs, the largest program of its kind in the state. It consists of 78 flashing road signs that have been placed around the town’s areas where flooding is traditionally problematic.
“The more information you give people, the better chance they have to react appropriately and to get off of those (streets most likely to be flooded) and to find higher ground,” Jargowsky said. “It could be something as simple as taking furniture off a porch and securing it. Or it could be a more serious situation. The point is to let people know about it as quickly as we can.”
The system uses solar panels to power the flashing lights and messages on the signs and a series of sensors that detect the presence of flood water to activate the individual signs.
The other new tool is a livestreaming “Flood Cam” that gives a real-time view of the intersection of 40th and Central Avenues, perhaps the most flood-prone area in town. The idea is that if 40th and Central is flooding, it serves as a barometer to alert that other streets known to flood frequently could be affected soon. Residents and visitors to those areas should then take appropriate action.
The camera livestreams an overhead image of the intersection 24 hours a day and can be found at https://www.njcoastalcoalition.com/sea-isle-city-web-cam.
These systems, like most high-tech devices, did not come cheap. The street signs warning system carried a $226,190 price tag. Cape May County picked up $89,472 of the cost. Most of the signs are located along Landis Avenue, the main north-south street in town and one that is under the control of Cape May County.
At the time the system was announced, Freeholder Jeffrey Pierson expressed hope Sea Isle’s adoption of the technology would be a model for Cape May County.
“I’m hoping other towns will think of using it,” he said. “It can be linked (to work in concert with Sea Isle) from Avalon to Ocean City.”
The “Flood Cam,” announced in May, was funded by a $5,000 grant by Sea Isle’s OceanFirst Bank, in conjunction with New Jersey’s Coastal Coalition, an organization of 22 towns and cities along the Shore in five counties.
Despite the cost of these systems, Jargowsky said he believes it is a solid investment.
“It’s worth it,” he said. “There are so many public safety considerations and so much property at stake.”