July 24, 2019

Extreme Heat, Powerful Storms Leave Princeton Mostly Unscathed

By Donald Gilpin

The heat over the weekend was extreme, and the late Monday storms were intense, but impacts were much greater in surrounding Mercer and Monmouth counties than in Princeton.

“It’s amazing to me,” said Bob Gregory, director of Princeton Emergency and Safety Services. “Princeton fared pretty well.”

Princeton Police Department (PPD) Assistant Press Information Officer Fred Williams agreed. “We came through it pretty well, which is unusual,” he said. “It usually hits us. There were some sporadic power outages, some older trees came down, but within Princeton’s borders we were lucky.”

West Windsor and Hamilton “got really slammed,” Williams reported, and, according to Gregory, in Mercer County overall there were close to 12,000 homes without power.

Pretty Brook Road was still closed as of Tuesday afternoon, with wires and trees down. Dinky Train service from Princeton to Princeton Junction was suspended Tuesday because of downed trees, and substitute bus service was provided.

Gregory praised the effective work of PSE&G and the municipality in identifying and replacing trees that are old or dead. He also pointed out that even though the heatwave over the weekend “had a slow build up and seemed to last forever, it didn’t really look that big as heatwaves go.”

The town provided “cooling stations” on Saturday and Sunday at the in the community room of the Municipal Building on Witherspoon Street and at Monument Hall for people who needed to come in, cool off, and charge their phones. The Princeton Public Library has also been accommodating, serving as a popular spot for community residents without air conditioning.

PPD Chief Nicholas Sutter reported only two calls directly related to the heat. “One was a person exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion, and the other was a dog left in a vehicle,” he said. “Both the person and the dog were OK.”

Princeton Health Officer Jeff Grosser noted the impact of climate change in general on residents’ health, and noted particularly the elderly and the very young. “Extreme heat, flooding, and power outages are probably going to be more the norm,” he said. “It puts a burden on communities. There are significant health risks connected to the extreme weather.”

Gregory also urged residents to be prepared for future extreme weather. “It’s still hurricane season,” he pointed out. In emergency situations he recommended checking @PrincetonNJ_OEM on Twitter and the website at www.ready.gov.