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Remembering Hurricane Irene's Impact on Long Branch

Local officials say city was fortunate one year ago

 

Hurricane Irene, technically Tropical Storm Irene, is a storm that Long Branch residents will not soon forget. And while the storm did not live up to the "hype," it still had an effect on the city.

The days leading up to the storm were days of preparation and speculation by many residents, including officials, who seem to agree that preparing for the storm was worse than the storm itself.

"We really got lucky," Mayor Adam Schneider said. "It was luck that it moved a few degrees in the other direction."

Long Branch Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Coordinator Stanley Dzuiba agreed.

"The '92 nor'easter was a lot worse, and we've had a couple of blizzards that were worse than Irene," Dzuiba said. "There was a lot more planning for it, because we had a lot more warning."

Mayor Schneider said the coordination between all borough departments was good, especially when it came time for the city to for residents.

"The level of cooperation between all the different agencies was outstanding," Mayor Schneider said.

A shelter was opened at Long Branch Middle School and hundreds of residents went there to escape their homes, most of which were located in flood-prone areas and near the oceanfront.

Mayor Schneider said all those who took shelter were "in good spirits," and said he even remembers children watching cartoons to pass the time.

When the actual hurricane hit, hundreds of residents lost power, and streets were flooded. But the area that received the most damage was an apartment complex on the corner of Howland Avenue and Ocean Boulevard that had its roof torn off.

At the time it was thought that a small tornado touched down, but Mayor Schneider said it was likely a "microburst."

"I remember following the path it took and you could see exactly where it hit," Mayor Schneider said. "It came right off the ocean and hit the apartment complex."

Luckily the residents in the apartment and that area had all evacuated, and the damage done has been repaired.

"The roof is back on and structure is intact," Mayor Schneider said.

Dzuiba said the residents received some assistance from the Red Cross and that the residents were given temporary homes while the building was repaired.

Power remained off for many residents for days after Irene struck as people began to pick up the debris around their homes and inflate the pockets of tree-removal experts.

Eventually, all returned to normal. The beaches were reopened, power was restored and residents and visitors enjoyed the rest of their summer.

Dzuiba said the city applied for and received FEMA funds to help pay for some of the damage done by the hurricane, but was not sure of the amount.

A call to city Long Branch Chief Financial Officer Ron Mehlhorn asking how much the city received was not immediately returned.

Now, one year later, Hurricane Issac, is making its way toward Haiti and Florida. Luckily, this storm is not slated to creep its way along the coast as Irene did.

However, if another hurricane ever threatens the Long Branch-area, local officials know they will be ready after using Hurricane Irene as a barometer of successful in terms of planning and preparedness.

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