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Tropical Storm Ida causes fatalities, road closures, flash flooding in Hopewell Valley

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Hopewell Fire Department vehicle damaged in Hopewell Township during Tropical Storm Ida.
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Rising waters of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Hopewell Township on Sept. 2. PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE CHIPOWSKY
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Hopewell Fire Department vehicle damaged in Hopewell Township during Tropical Storm Ida.
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Rising waters of the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Hopewell Township on Sept. 2. PHOTO COURTESY OF MIKE CHIPOWSKY

As Tropical Storm Ida impacted the northeast the remnants of the storm hit Hopewell Valley with flash flooding, road closures and rescues on Sept. 1.

Hopewell Township, Pennington and Hopewell Borough were seriously affected by flash flooding that caused fatalities, road closures, stranded vehicles and water rescues.

Tropical Storm Ida follows Tropical Storm Henri, which had also impacted the Hopewell Valley previously on Aug. 22.

In Hopewell Township, 50 overnight water rescues took place for stranded motorists and residents in homes, resulting in two fatalities, according to the Hopewell Township Police Department. Their identities have not yet been released.

Three Hopewell Township police officers were also rescued on Sept. 1.

According to a press release, a call was received from a stranded motorist on Route 518, east of Route 31, and Officer James Hoffman responded to attempt a rescue. While struggling to reach the person in need, his vehicle was swept sideways and was rapidly lifted by the rising water of Stony Brook.

Hoffman removed his gear after the door of his car would not open due to the pressure from the water. He escaped through his vehicles window and traveled 100 yards and was able to grab onto a tree.

Responding to aid Hoffman were Officers Michael Makwinski and Robert Voorhees. The two would attempt to reach Hoffman and also find themselves in need of rescue as the three officers held onto trees for two hours, according to the statement. Rescue units arrived from all over the area and the state arrived to provide aid.

The three officers were rescued by the efforts of the swift water rescue teams from the Union Titusville Fire Company, the Lawrenceville Fire Company and the Hamilton Fire Department, according to the department.

Two officers were transported to the hospital, examined and released.

“We easily could have lost three officers last night,” Police Director Bob Karmazin said in the statement.

Hopewell Fire and EMS, Hamilton Fire Department, Lawrenceville Fire and Police, West Windsor Police and EMS, Robbinsville Police and EMS, New Jersey Task Force 1, Camden County High Water Rescue, Mercer County Sheriff, Mercer County Rapid Response Task Force, Mercer County Prosecutors, and the NJ State Police all responded on Sept. 1.

The roadway closures experienced by motorists that evening and into Sept. 2 have been on Upper Stony Brook, south of Van Dyke, Bayberry Road at Morris Drive as the bridge is out, Old Mill Road, Pennington-Rocky Hill Road, Valley Road due to wires in trees, Pennington- Titusville Road near the bridge also due to wires down, and Aunt Molly Road.

As of 2:16 p.m. on Sept. 2, Old Mill Road and Pennington-Rocky Hill Road were reopened.

When asked about what other damages the township experienced from Tropical Storm Ida, acting Township Administrator George Synder said, “The sides of Aunt Molly Road washed out in one area. Several roads had debris on them. Public Works is removing gravel, rocks and branches.

Pennington was also severely impacted from flash flooding.

“As always, the combined efforts of all emergency services and the Pennington Public Works Department made this event extremely manageable,” Chief of Police Doug Pinelli said.

The Pennington Police Department had to remove three people from three different vehicles located in the intersection of Route 31 and West Delaware Avenue and there were several other vehicles that were abandoned throughout the borough due to failed attempts to pass through flooded roads.

Pennington’s emergency personnel did not experience a similar rescue as in Hopewell Township during the storm.

Motorists in Pennington would have to maneuver around several road closures and impassable roadways on Sept. 1. They were at Route 31 and West Delaware Avenue, King George Road at East Delaware Avenue (Pennington-Rocky-Hill Road), Broemel Place at Green Street, and North Main Street at Brookside.

“As of 12:56 p.m. on Sept. 2 all these roads have been reopened and are fully functional,” Pinelli said.

Still recovering from Tropical Storm Henri, Tropical Storm Ida’s impact on Hopewell Borough resulted in debris and road closures.

“Last night and today are night and day. Last night many roads were flooded and unpassable,” Borough Administrator Michele Hovan said. “Today, as the water has receded, the only closure we had all day was on Hart Avenue, which as of 4:48 p.m. has reopened. The continuing closure of the north Maple Street stretch between East Broad Street and Lafayette Street that was damaged significantly in the Aug. 22 Tropical Henri Storm remains closed and suffered more damage.”

A lot of debris clearing and storm drain openings have taken place.

“Back on Aug. 22, we had so much volume in terms of debris that it almost took us a week plus until this storm. The fortunate part is that we are in pretty good shape from a drainage standpoint,” Hovan said. “The town flooded just because of the volume of water in short amount of time. We suffered less damage this storm than we did on Aug. 22.”

Vehicles did have to be towed from Broad Street and there was property damage, but no new major infrastructure damage that Hovan and the township are aware of at this point.

“We are still trying to assess the damage. There is damage, but it is not significantly more than the storm on Aug. 22,” Hovan added. “The extraordinary work of our Public Works team – I can’t find the words to thank them enough for all their hard work in these last two storms. They have been incredible with this monumental task. They had to pick up a lot of debris and the cleanup is significant.”

Additionally, Hopewell Borough Park suffered significant erosion again and most areas of the park will be closed until the borough can restore it.

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