Date: 2021-09-08 18:33:45
One week after Ida brought major flooding and devastation to New Jersey, with more than two dozen deaths statewide, more storms and heavy winds are in the forecast Wednesday night.
Flash flood warnings are in effect across the region, and though the level of flooding is not supposed to be as severe as a week ago, there is still potential danger. During his weekly briefing, Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday implored people to pay attention to any warnings.
“If your phone goes off with a flash flood or tornado warning, please take it seriously,” Murphy said. “Do not try to go out in any storm.”
Murphy said people seemed to take flood warnings less seriously than tornado warnings, thinking they can be “better than the water.” But he cited the fact that all of the lives lost during Ida were a result of the floodwaters rather than the tornado that caused damage in Gloucester County.
“I just have to beg all of us to take this as seriously as we can,” Murphy said.
New Jersey State Police Col. Pat Callahan echoed the importance of paying attention to alerts.
“We just ask folks to certainly pay heed to that, to stay safe and to not have to be rescued,” Callahan said.
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Any flooding that results from Wednesday’s storm will likely not be as serious as last week’s. For example, the Saddle River in Lodi, which rose to major flooding levels due to Ida’s torrential rain, is not expected to get higher than 3.5 feet, which is well below the flood threshold at 6 feet, according to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrological Prediction Service.
However, predicting the weather has never been a perfect science. While floods were in the forecast last week, the extent the water rose went far beyond what had been forecast.
“They’ve been wrong before, and they were surely wrong last week,” Deputy Coordinator of the Lodi Office of Emergency Management Marcel Wurms said in a phone interview. “No one was expecting how much it was.”
Though Wurms does not expect the Saddle River to flood, he knows that can change quickly.
“Last week they were predicting minor flooding and in half an hour, it changed from minor to major,” Wurms said.
Lodi was crushed by Ida, and can ill afford more flooding. On Sunday, Murphy visited the town’s Boys & Girls Club, which had to be closed due to damage inflicted by the storm.
Since the ground across the state is already quite saturated from Ida and Henri before that, the potential for flooding becomes greater as more heavy rain is set to fall.
Wurms said there isn’t much the OEM can do before the storm, other than monitor it and respond to any changes. But because of the major mutual aid response in the wake of Ida, he feels that experience will help future responses.
“Fortunately, the more we do this, the better we get at it,” Wurms said.
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If another major emergency response is necessary for upcoming weather events, the experience learned from Ida could prove crucial.
But for a state that has already seen horrific flooding just a short time ago, Murphy wanted to make sure his warnings were clear, to make sure such a response isn’t necessary.
“Stay off the roads, particularly in roads where you may think you know that road but it is prone to flooding,” Murphy said. “And too many people were lost that way, and God bless each and every one of them.”
Liam Quinn is a breaking news reporter for NorthJersey.com. To get breaking news directly to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter.