What have Jersey City and Hoboken done to prepare for extreme weather?

Officials discuss preparations following anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and most recent Tropical Storm Ida

Officials are preparing for more extreme weather following Sandy and Ida. Photo by Mark Koosau.
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Officials are preparing for more extreme weather following Sandy and Ida. Photo by Mark Koosau.

For residents of Hudson County, the beginning of September could be seen as a case of deja vu.

A dangerous storm that battered and slammed the Gulf Coast made its way to New Jersey and the county. Bearing the name Ida, the storm brought a massive torment of rain and subsequent flooding upon the Garden State. In Hudson County, flood water streamed onto streets, homes, and residences.

The storm came nearly nine years after another major storm, Superstorm Sandy, hit the county. Today, the threat of extreme weather is all the more relevant, especially in the wake of grim reports of climate change having a massive impact on the world’s global weather patterns, making the dangers of extreme weather more frequent.

Through interviews with officials throughout Hudson County, the Hudson Reporter went over what has changed since Superstorm Sandy, and what is needed after Ida to prepare for an uncertain future.

Jersey City

Greg Kierce, the director of the Jersey City Office of Emergency Management and Homeland Security, has heard how Ida was compared to the 500 year storm, compared to Sandy being the 100 year storm.

“The only positive thing that we didn’t have with Ida was the wind driven storm surge,” said Kierce. “We had a lot more rain with Ida than we did in Sandy, but the effects were felt a lot based on the fact that we had the wind driven storm surge.”

Another problem that can come up during a storm is that they happen during a high tide, meaning that it blocks the outflow of water and prevents it from flowing.

Kierce was the incident commander during Sandy. Since then, the city has undertaken steps to prepare for storms such as installing pumps in locations that are flood prone. The process is very costly, he says, and it also comes with updating very old infrastructure. Jersey City is also working on high water rescue vehicles to go out and help rescue people from vehicles.

Hoboken

Jennifer Gonalez, the Director of the Environmental Services department in Hoboken said that the challenges in extreme weather are the intensity, frequency and severity of future rain storms.

“The challenge was that there was so much water,” she said about Ida. “It took a significant amount of time to pump out. It was the most significant rain event in Hoboken history; more than 150 million gallons of rain fell in the city.”

The pumping stations process 50 million gallons a day, and it took a few days to get through until the lowest lying areas receded before they could start cleanup operations.

She said that they’re looking into a number of new investments related to the Rebuild by Design program. It includes installing an urban levee in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken, creating a strategy to delay storm water from entering the combined sewer system, creating more capacity and then discharging it actively through wet weather compensation. They are also working with the North Hudson Sewerage Authority to mitigate rainfall flooding at a city scale.

Gonzales said they are also working closely with residents to provide more resources and tools to improve the resiliency of individual properties. Following a series of resilient building design guidelines after Sandy, they plan on upgrading them to focus on rainfall flood mitigation, check valves and ejector pumps.

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mark Koosau can be reached at mkoosau@hudsonreporter.com or his Twitter @snivyTsutarja.