By Gloria Stravelli
METUCHEN – The day after a torrential rainstorm inundated the borough, stranding autos and flooding basements, Mayor Jonathan Busch reflected on how the after-effects of Tropical Storm Ida turned out better than may have been anticipated.
“In retrospect, the things that typically fail in a storm did not,” the mayor said in an interview on Sept. 2, the day after the storm. “The things that don’t always happen, happened – like people’s basements. That’s the real concern that we have for people individually. We’re starting to collect resources for that. There’s no easy answer, it’s going to take some families a long time to get back on their feet.
“But I think overall the town as a borough fared quite well,” he said in a social media post. “Our downtown is open for business. I’m grateful for the things that actually went better than expected.
“All the cars that were in the road were towed. By morning we had everyone towed except for one on Memorial Parkway. But that’s now towed. So all of the cars have been cleared. There’s no power loss; we had two trees down on power lines but the power didn’t go out on Juniper and Maple streets,” he said.
In a subsequent post, Busch expressed concern for the many borough families that may be struggling with the impacts on their homes caused by the previous night’s storm and said he had reached out to local officials for help.
“At various points over the course of the day, I have spoken with our congressman, Frank Pallone Jr., and each of our state legislators about the possibility of funding for homeowners impacted by flooding,” Busch said in the post.
“Between President [Joe] Biden’s disaster declaration and Gov. [Phil] Murphy’s emergency declaration, we are hopeful that some forms of emergency relief will eventually be made available to those who need it,” he said.
The mayor also advised residents to document damage to their homes with photos and to inform insurance carriers about the damage, also to keep receipts for any work performed as a result of the damage.
Throughout the morning, the mayor posted that borough officials had been assessing damage from the Sept. 1 storm, which in some cases included basements flooded with water and/or sewage.
“However,” Busch noted, “we are in better shape overall as a borough than many would have expected,” citing no loss of power.
Three borough roads had been closed – Memorial, Maple and Juniper – due to downed trees and a vehicle in need of towing.
Also, the sidewalk underneath the Clive Street Bridge next to Olmezer Park was closed due to a dangerous condition, and water infiltrating some borough facilities.
Residents with damaged items caused by flooding are advised to call the Department of Public Works at 732-632-8519 to schedule a storm-related pick-up.
Above all the mayor advised supporting neighbors impacted by the storm.
“Please keep in mind that some residents have had a horrible last 12 hours and might be able to use some help from neighbors,” he wrote. “If you notice that neighbors are struggling, please consider offering any support you might be able to provide.”
During the storm, the Metuchen Fire Department responded to dozens of calls for assistance in the wake of the torrential rains, including from numerous people stranded in their cars, according to Fire Chief Robert Donnan.
According to a post on the Facebook page, department personnel rescued dozens of people from flooded cars and transported those stranded to the senior center, the chief said in an interview.
“We even deployed our boat to reach people stuck under the bridge on Main Street,” Donnan said the day after rains inundated the region.
Calls for assistance came in fast and furious, according to Donnan, who said volunteers responded to approximately 50 calls for assistance between 8 p.m. Sept. 1 and 1 a.m. Sept. 2.
“It was extreme,” he said. “Central Avenue was terrible, all the roads passing under the railroad bridge. It was very difficult to be able to move around town,” he said.
“Another problem was some people drove into the water and even when the water receded, cars were blocking the roads.
“We did what we could to help people stranded in their cars and we opened our senior center as a shelter and transported them with fire department trucks to the senior center where they would help them dry out and warm up,” he said.