I don’t have to tell you that this has been a horrible April in terms of weather. For much of this month, temperatures have been below average here in New Jersey. As a matter of fact, that can be said for much of the country. Then, there was all the rain, particularly in the Garden State as well as the rest of the Northeast. In just the last ten days or so, the region has dealt with two major rain storms. The rare April Nor’easter that occurred two weeks ago, produced up to eight inches of rain in spots. Here in South Plainfield rainfall totaled about 4.3 inches. Then, just a few days ago another rainstorm brought an additional three to five inches of rain to the Central Jersey area including 3.52 inches here in South Plainfield.
Looking At The Rain
Consequently, there has been a significant amount of flooding in my neighborhood, and in towns such as Bound Brook and Manville in Somerset County, which were devastated by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. In my opinion, the flooding on my block was actually worse than what was left of Hurricane Floyd back in September, 1999. Looking back on Floyd, the rainfall from the storm here in South Plainfield was approximately 11.7 inches while Bound Brook and Manville received several inches more. With all that said, you might wonder how the heck did I come to the conclusion that this latest round of flooding is worse than that from Floyd? Well, in terms of my own neighborhood, the floodwaters advanced further up the street than it did during Floyd. They reached as far as the property line for my house, which didn’t happen during Floyd. Television Interviews with those directly impacted by the flooding in other parts of New Jersey including Bound Brook and Manville indicated that the flooding was worse.
Worse Than Floyd?
Still there may be questions, and they can be answered by looking at the times of year and the context in which these storms occurred. First, these two storms happened at different times of year. Floyd occurred in mid-September at the very height of hurricane season, and more importantly, the end of summer, where temperatures are warmer and the ground is drier, and has more capacity for moisture. These latest rounds of storms came in April, where temperatures are much cooler, and the ground can become saturated more quickly. Furthermore, there was a drought that gripped New Jersey prior to Floyd’s arrival in mid-September, 1999 while temperatures had been below normal for much of April this year, and nearly an inch of rainfall fell four days before the Nor’easter.
Echoes Of Katrina
The cost of the damage from the flooding produced by the Nor’easter is estimated to be $180 million here in New Jersey. There has not been an assessment on what the latest round of stormy weather did here in Central Jersey on April 27th. However, towns such as Bound Brook and Manville fell prey to much of the predicament that New Orleans found itself when Hurricane Katrina came to town in August, 2005. Bound Brook and Manville, which are a part of the Green Brook Flood Plain, were devastated back in 1999 thanks to the rains from Floyd. In the aftermath of the weakened tropical storm, which was a mere storm by the time it came up through New Jersey, officials on the local, state, and federal levels finally got working on projects that were 30 years in the making. Around 35 years ago, according to a feature written in the April 28th edition of the Star-Ledger by Mark Di Ionno, a proposal was made after the 1971 and 1973 floods to create the Green Brook Flood Control Project.
As with the levee projects in New Orleans, “the Army Corps of Engineers has designed a number of flood remediation systems including levees and flood walls, but the federal funding always came up short.” If you recalled from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, some criticized the Army Corps of Engineers for failing to remedy the flooding problem in the wake of Hurricane Betsy, a Category Three Hurricane that struck the Big Easy back in 1965. Writers from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, John McQuaid and Mark Schleifstein go into some detail about this in their book, Path of Destruction. Funding for these two projects were cut by the Bush Administration when it took over in 2001. In addition, FEMA’s Project Impact, which was featured in the Fall of 2001 by Hurricaneville in a special report on Hurricane Preparedness in the Tri-State Area, was phased out by the current administration. Project Impact had helped such communities as Freeport, Long Island, and was an idea created by President Clinton’s FEMA director, James Lee Witt, who has since been involved in helping Louisiana recover from Katrina while running Witt Associates and Protecting America.
Officials assured the public along the Green Brook Flood Plain, particularly those in Bound Brook and Manville, that the floods from Floyd would never happen again. People moved into these towns since Floyd with the belief that the flood problem was being fixed. However, only a third of the flood structures proposed to protect Bound Brook were built, and one critical structure that would protect the southwestern portion of the town from the Raritan River, was not. When the recent rains came, the floods returned, much to the anger of residents and officials in Somerset County. The current administration in Washington not only made poor choices in not funding these projects, or abandoning them altogether when it came to power six years ago, but it has also failed to fix the problems that resulted in the chaos after Katrina. We as citizens must learn from these lessons, and not only hold the feet of the current crop of presidential candidates to the fire, but we also must be able to be self-sufficient and take the right measures to ensure that we don’t end up on the short end of the stick the next time such a disaster occurs.