Saturday evening surely was a dark and stormy night for Princeton; after a day of record heat, a fast-moving, severe thunderstorm rocked the area, leaving power outages and road closures in its wake.
Township Police reported that they responded to 65 calls for service over a six-and-one-half hour period on the evening of July 7. The calls ranged from alarm activations to transformer fires. The east side of the Township appeared to be hardest hit: in all, there were 25 road closures, 15 of them due to downed power lines. Road closures were necessary in some areas, and power outages were widespread throughout the east side of the Township. As of Monday morning, police reported, all roads in the Township had been cleared and were reopened, and there were no reports of power outages.
Now comes the clean-up.
The first order of business, reported Township Superintendent of Public Works Donald R. Hansen, was to clear streets that were blocked by fallen trees. “We cut up, and pushed trees off to the side” as quickly as possible, said Mr. Hansen. Where wires were involved, work had to be postponed until PSE&G came to turn the power off. “They were very responsive this time,” Mr. Hanson reported.
The next order of business is to clear away the trees and branches that fell in residents’ back yards as a result of the storm. Although there is no definite date yet, Mr. Hansen thought residents would be asked to bring tree limbs and other debris to the curb for a brush pick-up in the near future.
Mr. Hanson corroborated the report that most of the damage had occurred in the eastern section of the Township, between Harrison Street and River Road.
Herrontown Road resident Jessica Weigmann also confirmed this report.
“The damage was very localized,” she noted. “It was almost as if a line of wind came shooting through at a very direct angle, like a wind shear or a tornado.” The line of demarcation was precise; the Weigmann’s and several nearby houses experienced severe tree damage, while others across the street had just “a few twigs” come down. Amazingly, Ms. Weigmann said, no one was hurt and there was no apparent damage to area houses or cars. More amazingly, perhaps, is the fact that properties that were damaged did not lose power in spite of having been hit so hard. Other neighborhoods did not fare so well; at 80 Woodside Drive a large tree crashed through the roof and into the master bedroom.
Ms. Wiegmann, whose family has lived in their house since 1974, thought that the clean up would take weeks. Although a large fallen tree that blocked Herrontown Road was cleaned up by midnight on Saturday, “enormous trees” remain in the area, she said. Bringing these trees curbside for a brush pickup, she thought, is not a likely possibility.