Princeton Copes With Chaos Unleashed by Superstorm, Almost Back to Normal
Some semblance of normalcy was restored by the beginning of this week as Princeton residents continued to assess and respond to the property damages and electrical outages caused by Hurricane Sandy.
By Monday, schools and local government offices had reopened, and Princeton Community TV was up and running after storm-related closures. Superintendent Judy Wilson advised children and staff returning to buildings that had been without heat for some days to bring sweaters and sweatshirts “in case schools are chilly or we lose power again.”
The New Jersey Education Association officially cancelled a convention originally scheduled for November 8 and 9 in Atlantic City; schools, which had previously been scheduled to close on those dates, will be open on November 8 and 9 for full days of classes. While acknowledging that this scheduling change may be a hardship for families who had planned a long weekend vacation, Ms. Wilson noted that “with five days lost already and winter still ahead of us, capturing two full November days is critical and far better instructionaly than late June.” A Board of Education Meeting, already rescheduled for Thursday, November 1, was rescheduled again for Tuesday, November 13.
“Our schools were spared much damage,” Ms. Wilson reported. “The buildings and grounds fared well and what needed to be addressed in terms of downed trees, generators, etc., was taken care of right away by our exceptionally dedicated custodial, grounds, and maintenance staff. They prepared well, covered the buildings throughout the storm, and have been on double duty since.”
Township administration has announced that the due date for taxes has been extended until November 20.
At the beginning of this week, Governor Chris Christie announced the availability of a “health hotline” that will answer hurricane-related questions about food/water safety, and cleaning and mold removal. A 2-1-1 human services hotline is open 24/7, he said, and public health officials are available to take calls from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends at (866) 234-0964.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved funding for counties throughout the state. “Across New Jersey and all the impacted states, we are continuing to deploy people, assets, and resources in response to this storm,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano during a weekend visit to New Jersey to survey Sandy’s impact and to meet with state and local officials, first responders, and volunteers to discuss ongoing response and recovery efforts.
In the meantime, President Obama and the U.S. Department of Transportation released $10 million in emergency highway funding to help get New Jersey’s highways and roads back in working condition. The funding will be distributed to the New Jersey Department of Transportation to help restore traffic services, establish detours, and perform emergency roadway repairs on federal-aid roads and bridges that were damaged.
Locally, Princeton University had about 50 trees come down on campus as a result of the hurricane and Director of Communication Martin Mbugua noted that there were “dozens” of reports of “blocked roads, damaged vehicles, fences and other property.
“In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, about 800 University employees worked in shifts to provide services for undergraduate and graduate students who remained on campus during fall recess, and to keep other critical campus functions running,” said Mr. Mbugua. No injuries were reported as “hundreds of employees worked through the night Monday to switch most of campus to power from the University’s cogeneration plant, clear roadways, check buildings, and provide general security.”
Even before officials had cancelled the New York City marathon, Princeton Borough and Township Police Departments and administrators decided to postpone the HiTOPS Half-Marathon, scheduled for Sunday, November 4. “The safety of the runners, volunteers, officers, and all others involved in making this event a success is the highest priority,” officials noted.
The Princeton Arts Council’s “Dining by Design” has been rescheduled for December 1. Executive Director Jeff Nathanson reported that a number of Arts Council programs and events will be rescheduled, and some will just have to be cancelled. Until Monday morning, the Arts Council building was without power, including phone and internet service. “We did everything we could to communicate with the public,” said Mr. Nathanson. “Staff used the Conference Room at the public library. The library’s support was fantastic, and we really appreciate it,” he added (See page 5 article). To check on Arts Council updates, visit www.artscouncilofprinceton.com.
Although electricity has been restored, the Princeton Senior Resource Center in the Suzanne Patterson building was still without heat at the beginning of the week, and classes were cancelled.
The Princeton Family YMCA got power back Sunday around 3 p.m. CEO Kate Bech reported that the building would be open “on a limited basis,” and that child care programs and after school programs are running. “The pool should reopen by Tuesday,” she said, and the cardio room is available to members. “We welcome anybody from the community to use our locker rooms if they are in need of a hot shower,” she added.
At Infini-T and Spice Souk on Hulfish Street, co-owner Mary Fritschie reported that one of her regular customers organized a drive and asked to use the location to drop things off. She described the response as “massive, just wonderful,” noting that a steady stream of non-perishables including diapers, foam mattresses, warm blankets, canned foods, and cleaning supplies have been dropped off in front of the cafe since 7 a.m. on Saturday.
D’Angelo Italian Market on Spring Street in Princeton is also collecting contractor trash bags, work gloves, batteries (all types), flashlights, winter jackets, kleenex, Clorox wipes, toilet paper, candles, matches, and baby supplies (diapers, baby wipes, etc,) to help residents of Breezy Point and Rockaway, two areas badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. On Monday, a member of the D’Angelo family transported a truck full of donations to St. Francis de Sales Church in Rockaway, New York. Additional information on shelters, the application process for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and social service is available at www.nj211.org/hurricane.cfm. Additional information about hurricane and flood recovery is also available at www.state.nj.us/health/er/natural.shtml.
The storm also caused The Historical Society of Princeton to reschedule its 2012 House Tour for this Saturday, November 10, instead of the originally scheduled date of November 3. The tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include five properties.
Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath did not prevent fans of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra from attending a concert Sunday afternoon at Richardson Auditorium on the Princeton University campus. On the contrary, there was a full house for the performance led by Music Director Rossen Milanov, who revised the program when some rehearsals had to be canceled and many musicians could not get to Princeton [see music review page 26]. Last-minute tickets at $25 were offered to brighten spirits, and they were quickly sold.