Vol. LXI, No. 16
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
A state of emergency was declared throughout New Jersey Sunday as a springtime nor'easter snarled weekend and commuter travel, and caused major flooding statewide, as well as throughout the Princetons.
The storm that began washing out the region early Sunday morning brought more than 5.5 inches of rain, closed Princeton public schools on Monday, and rendered many of Princeton's roads useless, as weather conditions shut down Princeton University, the Princeton Public Library, and Princeton Township municipal offices, among others.
"This is the worst I've ever seen," said Princeton Borough Police Chief Anthony Federico.
A local state of emergency was declared in West Windsor Township as heavy rain and widespread flooding encroached on property lines and filled basements, and the Princeton Fire Department spent much of Monday morning responding to reports of flooded basements that appear likely to reach into the hundreds.
As floodwaters rose and threatened the integrity of basement-located electrical boxes, several flood-related calls quickly turned fire related, reported Princeton Fire Department Chief Jamie Alkhateeb.
According to the National Weather Service, Trenton Mercer Airport received 5.55 inches of rain between midnight Sunday morning and noon Monday, and though the rain had tapered off by Monday afternoon, traffic conditions throughout Princeton remained clogged.
By rush hour Monday, portions of Quaker Road, Mercer Street, Route 206, Alexander Street, Route 27, and South Harrison Street were closed, blocking access into Princeton via Washington Road.
"It was an absolute mess," said Princeton Township Police Chief Mark Emann. "It's amazing how roads that rarely flood were like running streams."
Additional road closures included Route 1 North at Raymond Road in South Brunswick, Route 1 South at Province Line Road in West Windsor, Route 1 North at Franklin Corner in Lawrence, and the Route 1-Route 295 intersection in Lawrence.
"You're talking major roads being closed coming in and out of Princeton. It made it impossible to get in and out of town," Chief Emann said. "You couldn't send people anywhere."
Much of Princeton's retail business also closed shop for the day, giving Princeton's Central Business District the incongruous look of heavy, gridlocked traffic with little commercial activity.
"This was just devastating flooding that happened throughout the state," said David Robinson, the state climatologist at Rutgers University. Parts of Middlesex County, he added, have already been through the wettest April in a quarter century as areas like New Brunswick and Bound Brook, with more than eight inches of rain, experienced the worst flooding since Hurricane Floyd in 1999.
It was the largest April rainstorm on record in New Jersey, Mr. Robinson said. "I don't have to dig far into the record books to tell you that. I mean, we're talking a century's time," he said, adding that in parts of Middlesex County, the 24-hour rainfall of approximately six-and-a-half inches more than doubled the previous record. "We're talking about unprecedented April rainfall, and unusual for any month in the year."
Mr. Robinson added that the storm's low pressure rivaled that of a Category 2 hurricane. "The only thing that didn't bring hurricane force winds was that the storm was not wrapped as tight, but this was a massive storm."
The Princeton Fire Department was coordinating operations with the Mercer County office of Emergency Management, as well as with the fire marshals of Princeton Township and Princeton Borough. "We're just going to work through it," Chief Alkhateeb said.
And while the storm left an "absolute mess," Township Police Capt. Robert Buchanan said the region "got very lucky" because there were no significant injuries.
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