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7/3/2012 - Cumberland County Pulls Together

CUMBERLAND COUNTY PULLS TOGETHER
RECOVERY CONTINUES, STORMS DAMAGE UPPER-DEERFIELD & UPPER-HOPEWELL

UPPER DEERFIELD & UPPER HOPEWELL TWP. - Cumberland County residents who live in Upper Deerfield or Upper Hopewell Townships can certainly tell you a thing or two about thunderstorms, because they have had more than their fair share of them over the past couple of years. Seeley Lake in Upper Deerfield is still empty as a result of heavy rains from storms that hit the area last year and caused the damn there to fail. Earlier this month, the same area got hit by storms that caused severe damage to Parsonage Road & Tices Lane, which are still closed and undergoing emergency repairs. And again Friday, June 22nd, 2012 both Upper Deerfield and Upper Hopewell Townships were hit by yet more thunderstorms that caused even more damage to the area. Rain flooded streets; straight sheer winds knocked down more than 200 trees, dozens of utility poles and power wires, leaving more than 2,800 residents without power. Trees, utility poles, power wires and debris were blown across the region making more than a dozen roads completely inaccessible for travel. It looked like a tornado or a hurricane had come thru, said one volunteer firefighter.

In other parts of Cumberland County residents experienced some thunder and lightning, rain, short downpours, and some winds, but nothing anything near what Upper Deerfield and Upper Hopewell Townships experienced. On Hance Bridge Road in East Vineland a large tree fell that blocked most of the road for a short time, but county road crews cut up and removed it quickly and the road was reopened within an hour.

However, this story isn’t so much about the thunder-storms, or the trees and utility poles that caused county residents to lose their electricity (some residents went without power almost the entire weekend), and it’s not about all the debris that was left behind after the storms which left roads closed and impassable. This story is about the people... “I want to acknowledge the residents for their courage in a difficult time”, said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Carl Kirstein. These people had a very difficult weekend. The weather was warm and humid making it very uncomfortable for most of these folks. Area residents weren’t complaining though, instead they were out checking on their neighbors to see if they needed anything. They were asking one another if they could help clean up their yard or help them clear their driveway. It was an inspiring sight to see, even with all the debris that was all around them, the residents were still very positive and continued help one another.

Cumberland County Officials along with Fire & Rescues Squads and the New Jersey State Police, and Upper Deerfield Twp. & Upper Hopewell Twp. Officials all jumped right in on Friday night, immediately after the storm hit. The Freeholders, the Administration, the Directors, the Engineers, the County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the County 911 Center, the County Dept. of Public Works and so many others came to together to help. Some worked into the night and some worked all weekend. Some were still working on Monday to help get the roads cleared and get things back to normal. Atlantic Electric and Verizon Telephone trucks were out all weekend working to get the power back on for county residents.

Locally, businesses got involved too; Stanley Liquors of 823 N. Pearl Street, Bridgeton gave bags of ice to the residents who were without electricity and Cumberland Dairy of 899 Landis Avenue, Rosenhayn offered hundreds of pounds. “These are good people, they’re good companies and we appreciate their support. It really goes to show you what a great place Cumberland County is and how nice our residents are”, said Cumberland County Freeholder Bill Whelan – Chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

County Engineer Bill Rafferty along with Don Olbrich Supervisor of the Dept. of Public Works organized cut up and clearing of an impressive amount of downed trees and debris. One way or another, everyone helped out. The County Administrator Ken Mecouch teamed up with Township Committeeman John Daddario and went and got ice from local businesses to take over to residents who were without electricity. In Seabrook, Public Works Dept. from Upper Deerfield and Firefighters from Stations 31, 32, 33, 34 pitched in to help clear downed trees and debris. Volunteer Firefighters from Seabrook Station 32 helped both Ken & John deliver ice to county residents who were without electricity. Deputy County Administrator Kim Wood worked with County Public Information Officer Troy Ferus at his office to manage communications and keep everyone informed.

“It really was a great team effort all across the county, and I’m proud of everyone for their efforts and a job well done. There was a tremendous amount of work done in just a short amount of time and I’m grateful for all of the support and hard work, thank you - everyone!” said Cumberland County Freeholder Director Carl Kirstein.

“Even with all the trees and utility poles that were down, and all of the dangerous work that was done, there wasn’t one accident reported. Not one injury. This shows you how professional our county employees are and what a great job they do”, said Cumberland County Freeholder Sam Fiocchi - Chairman of the Public Property and Personnel Committee.