LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: With consistently hot and humid weather throughout June, July and August, summer storms in NJ are a pretty frequent event.
They can be anything from heavy rainstorms to thunderstorms with wind, rain, thunder and lightning or they can be much more severe.
Rain and Thunderstorms
Rain and thunderstorms seem to occur regularly in the Garden State. The vivid greenery and constant humidity in NJ help attest their frequency..
Heavy rains in many NJ locations cause not only flooding on streets but also in many homes.
Due to most NJ houses having basements, there can be a reasonable chance of flooding in the below ground sections. Periods of frequent rain help the ground outside the basement become saturated and then flooding occurs. Sometimes downpours are so heavy though, flooding occurs quite quickly.
Most home-owners with basements are prepared for this, and keep their household goods off the basement floor for this reason. In flood-prone areas, it is a good idea to have either a sump pump set up or a water vacuum pump available, in case the basement floods. Mopping and other manual methods are usually slow and ineffective approaches to emptying a flooded basement.
Historically severe storms here only ever reached the tropical storm magnitude in NJ. Hurricanes were always an event that occurred out at sea or in other states but never made landfall here. Times have changed in the last few years though with hurricanes tracking onto land in NE USA for the first time ever, with horrendous consequences.
Hurricanes and tropical storms, are associated with both extremely strong winds and surging water tides which cause floods. The level of flooding can be very severe due to the wind ferocity driving the surging water. Most hurricanes also have drenching rain that starts once they make landfall. This can also contribute significantly to possible further flooding damage. Other damage usually includes downed power lines and trees, especially in NJ where trees are plentiful. Flying debris, such as outdoor furniture, outdoor signs, tree branches, roofing or materials torn off by forceful winds, often add to the total destruction caused by hurricanes.
Hurricane Havoc with Irene and Sandy
In 2011, Hurricane Irene created havoc and widespread flooding across New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts. At the time, we were holidaying in Cape Cod, in Massachusetts. We weren’t at home in NJ then but still experienced the tail end of Iren’s strong winds.
The hurricane hit New York, then Connecticut, with its outer reaches crossing NJ, bringing very heavy rain. Flooding was moderately severe in NJ but devastating in New York State in places like the Catskill Mountains where hurtling river torrents washed away cars, homes, and even a hotel, while people were still inside trying to escape.
One year later (2012), when Hurricane Sandy was just about to arrive in NJ, the forecasters had told us what a nightmare it was going to be. Sandy was not just a hurricane but it was mixed in with a second storm to produce a once-in-a-lifetime weather disaster from hell. Unfortunately, Sandy managed to exceed all expectations in the worst way. Much has been written about Sandy’s widespread damage to homes, property, businesses and community life for most of the Jersey Shore. The epithet ‘Sandy Strong’ summarizes the fortitude that so many New Jerseyans have needed to rebuild their lives and towns since October 2012.
What is not as well- known from media coverage is the wide reach of Sandy’s effects into NJ. Surging tides travelled up New Jersey rivers, caused flooding and infrastructure damage, while severe winds knocked down thousands of trees and power lines. A huge proportion of the state had no power for the first week, and for some time afterwards. Electricity suppliers such as PSEG worked endlessly to return power to homes across the state. Hoboken, along the Hudson River in NJ, being below sea level in some parts, had a large number of homes that were flooded by tidal surge water. The same occurred in lower parts of Manhattan, the NY subway system and the southern end of Long Island.
With such a massive amount of damage, most people’s lives were put on hold, cleaning up debris while waiting for repairs and some normality to return. Emergency help and utility companies struggled to make inroads into the gargantuan disaster. Just clearing trees and power lines off roads was a massive task. Considering the high wind speeds and their consistent ferocity, it was amazing there were not more houses without roofs. The winds that howled around our home, over 75 miles distance from the center of Sandy, sounded like a number of large planes trying to land in our backyard.
In Australia, there is a great display at Darwin Museum that allows you to hear what Cyclone Tracy must have sounded like when it swept into Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974, leaving almost nothing standing. Sandy’s winds, in the furthest corner of her domain, sounded shockingly similar.
What to Do About Summer Storms in NJ
Summer storms in NJ are a normal part of life. Like most other locations that get thunderstorms, drenching rain, and strong winds, you can’t really avoid them.
Some common sense rules to follow though are to:
- Clean out your house gutters so they don’t block during a heavy rain downpour.
- Make sure any roadside drains outside your house are free of garden waste or other objects that block drainage. If this is too difficult to do yourself, call your local municipal office to report such blockages and request assistance getting them cleaned before storms arrive.
- Put away or fasten down any outdoor items that may become dangerous flying debris.
- Be prepared for flooding by moving things off the basement floor that will be ruined.
- Get some tools to assist cleaning the floor in case flooding does occurs. A wet vacuum cleaner is a very useful piece of equipment for this task. Dry rags are also helpful for drying up any water residues.
- Purchase some bleach to spray the basement walls with afterwards, to avoid mold growing post-flooding.
- Get an air dehumidifier to assist drying out the basement properly straight after the flood water is removed.
- Unplug all electricals that may be susceptible to electrical surges from any lightning hits.
- Have a handy list next to the phone of utility companies, municipal departments phone numbers to report any power outages or other problems.
- If your home phone is electrical, ensure your mobile phones are fully charged before the storm arrives, in case the power goes out.
What to Do About Hurricanes
When there is a much more severe level of storm forecast to arrive such as a severe tropical storm or hurricane, then there will need to be much more serious preparation. In one of our next articles, we will cover how to prepare for a hurricane.
Do you have any other tips about preparing for storms or possible flooding?