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Hurricane Sandy: Bernards Twp. Updates Preparations

Police, other officials issue advisory to residents and gear up for arrival of anticipated strong storm.

Bernards Township Police updated an advisory to township residents to prepare at home and follow municipal updates in anticipation of the arrival on Monday of Tuesday of Hurricane Sandy, which could potentially bring sustained winds of up to 74 m.p.h.

The most recent update from officials advise residents to:

  • Review your Family Emergency Plan and update as needed and be prepared for potential long-term power outages.
  • Get leaves and any other obstructing materials away from storm drains before this storm arrives.There a lot of leaves on the ground. Leaves are excellent material to clog/block storm drains, worsening local/neighborhood flooding.
  • Secure outside items such as patio furniture or bring them inside as it appears increasingly likely the area will see very strong wind gusts, according to the Bernards Township Office of Emergency Management.

Shimsky added that before this weekend, the township department of public works had readied equipment or potential debris removal and had made arrangements for additional staffing.

Bernards Township police had added extra officers and readied equipment including portable stop signs, cones and barricades which are loaded up and ready to deploy, Shimsky said.

The Bernards Township Sewage authority has generators on standby and have prepared their equipment and facilities for potential flooding conditions, he said.

Information will be continued to be pushed out this weekend as needed via the township website, social media, and other avenues of communication, Shimsky said. He added he continues to coordinate his efforts with Somerset County's Office of Emergency Management.

Some of the township's precautionary measures have gone into effect since 2011's Hurricane Irene and a surprise snowstorm that hit the region last Oct. 29, a year exactly before Sandy, a storm that is gathering steam, may drop into the area.

"The National Weather Service has stated that there is the potential for a very dangerous autumn storm to affect our region early next week," according to the advisory issued last week by Police Lt. Michael Shimsky, who also is coordinator of the Bernards Township Office Of Emergency Management.

Shimsky said on Thursday that local officials now are tracking the storm, and would assign extra personnel if dangerous weather hits the area.

"Should the storm’s trajectory continue towards our region, there is a potential for strong damaging winds and extreme heavy rainfall with localized flooding," the advisory said.

After the events in August and October 2011, Bernards Township has established a Facebook page and a Twitter account, as well as posting additional information on the already-existing Bernards Township website when severe weather conditions occur.

Starting just this fall, residents and interested parties can sign up to receive Nixle alerts at www.nixle.com. Participants can choose a user name and password as well as listing devices on which they would like to receive message alerts, Shimsky said at that time.

Additional information on this storm already is online on the Bernards Township website.

With considerable uncertainty as to the actual storm track as of late this week, police suggest that citizens should visit www.weather.gov or other weather outlets for the most current information regarding the storm.

As a precaution, Jersey Central Power & Light announced that the power company has placed employees on alert, and is prepared to mobilize employees and resources where needed if Hurricane Sandy develops into a threat to the region.

JCP&L said updated information on the company’s preparation efforts for the hurricane, current outages, FirstEnergy's storm restoration process and tips for staying safe is at www.firstenergycorp.com or www.jcp-l.comJCP&L said it also will provide updates via Twitter @JCP_L, and on Facebook www.facebook.com/JCPandL.

Preparations being made by county, township sewerage authority

Somerset County met on Friday to arrange a response to a severe storm.

In Bernards Township, Shimsky said that the township sewerage authority already has been draining lagoons to make room for a potential influx of stormwaters, and also has emergency generators in place.

The police advisory said that the first step in planning for a storm is to stay informed, via traditional or social media. Patch also will continue to provide updates.

The second step is to discuss hurricanes and other natural hazards with family members and determine ways to stay close and connected regarding potential evacuation plans and locations, the police advisory said.

"Consider those in your family or community who might need extra assistance, due to age or disability, regarding emergency plans. Don’t forget your pets!" the advisory said.

Gather emergency supplies

Emergency preparedness also involves gathering emergency supplies; many of these items can be found around your home. Among suggestions are to stock up on drinking water, necessary medications, flashlights and approved generators as well as non-perishable food.

More information on hurricane preparedness is at http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

"Steps taken in that direction are a direct result of the two severe weather incidents in 2011 that each time left many without power for more than a week, wondering what would happen next," Shimsky said earlier this year.

Since the storms, social media has become an important part of the township's efforts to improve communications, he added.

The township, with some success, had been urging Jersey Central Power & Light to pass along more information about where power outages were taking place during the second storm last year, Shimsky said earlier this year. The township also relied on reverse 9-1-1 calls during power outages to reach residents.

If it is needed, the township has plans to put into action an emergency operations center from which all communications would originate, Shimsky said earlier this year. That center would be based from the township police headquarters at 1 Collyer Lane, but Shimsky added the the township also has a mobile command center ready to go that can function as a shelter, has generators and is equipped with radios.

Residents should expect extremely rainfall, strong damaging winds over a period of 24 to 48 hours and major flooding along streams and rivers.

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