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Irene: Falling Trees, Flooding Still a Danger in Chatham

Sewer treatment plant is flooded, many power lines remain down; residents asked to stay indoors.

UPDATE: 10:40 p.m.—Chatham remains under a flood watch for the Passaic River. According to the National Weather Service, the river was staged at 7.5 feet Sunday at 8:45 p.m. Flood staging is 6 feet. Moderate flooding is expected to continue with the river rising to nearly 8.1 feet by Monday evening before falling, the NWS said.

According to the NWS, the bridges on Central and Bridge avenues in Chatham Township are subject to be closed, while Edgewood Road has already been shut down.

Chatham Patch received unconfirmed reports of a large oak tree which fell onto Watchung Avenue between Washington and Fairmount Avenues at approx 9:55 p.m. Sunday. Walter Simson, a Chatham resident, said police are on the scene.

Power slowly came back on in Chatham Borough Sunday afternoon, but officials warn many power lines remain down and roads are still treacherous.

According to JCP&L, there were 5,610 outages in Chatham by about 2 p.m. Some residents without power took shelter inside Cafe Beethoven, which was open until 4 p.m. Sunday, until JCP&L notified them power was restored. Some homes still remain without power, however, according to Borough Mayor Nelson Vaughan. He could not specify how many homes remain without power.

Motorists are urged to stay off the roads in order to make it easier for tree companies, utility companies and emergency responders to reach troubled areas.

Vaughan said the Madison-Chatham Joint Meeting was flooded and sewage is not being processed before flowing to the Passaic River. "This is an ecological and economic disaster," Vaughan said.

Chatham Patch also received unconfirmed reports of interruptions in cell phone service.

Hurricane Irene was officially downgraded to a tropical storm as it moved over New York City and Coney Island Sunday morning amid concerns in Chatham Borough that a fallen bridge could stop water delivery in Chatham borough.

The bridge over Days Creek on Van Doren Avenue which leads to the and in Chatham Borough "collapsed under a [borough DPW] car," Vaughan said.

Water pipes are exposed as a result of the bridge collapse and could potentially affect the borough's water supply delivery over the coming days.

"So far everything's fine," Vaughan said, but the pipes could crack or break as a result of the exposure. "We could lose our water," Vaughan said. "Vince [DeNave, the borough engineer] is very concerned about that."

Water quality is not in danger but the sink hole continued to grow Sunday afternoon. Residents are asked to stay away to prevent the hole from growing.

The driver, a DPW employee, was able to get to safety but sustained a cut on his head.

Chatham Township Police said even as the weather improves Sunday, residents should continue to stay indoors. Many roads are impassable and "live wires are everywhere," according to a police statement.

Chatham officials reported numerous trees and utility wires down Sunday morning at about 7:30 a.m., with more than 3,350 homes without power and several streets flooded in the borough and township at that time.

"To drive anywhere is just ludicrous right now. There’s nowhere that important that you’ve got to get to," Township Police Chief John Paton said. "It's really treacherous out there."

Chatham Township Police said church services at Corpus Christi Roman Catholic Church and the Presbyterian Church of Chatham Township were canceled Sunday morning "due to perilous conditions."

A tree fell through the roof of a home on Highland Avenue during the night in the borough. The home was evacuated and the residents made arrangements to stay elsewhere. A tree also fell on the roof of a Van Doren Avenue home but did not cause the roof to collapse.

One police car became stuck in water under the railroad overpass on Fairmount Avenue during the night. Vaughan said officials pushed the car out of the water.

Electricity throughout town was "spotty" after residents and officials passed "one hell of a busy night," Vaughan said.

One motorist's car broke down while trying to navigate through flooded area. The motorist, who is not a local resident, was transported to the Hilton in Short Hills.

In Chatham Township, a tree struck four apartments at the Cardinal Hill apartment complex along River Road. The residents of those four apartments were evacuated and went to stay with family or friends, Paton said.

A home at 48 Rose Ter. in the township had a branch come through a window during the night. Paton said there were "no injuries reported" with this or any other incident in the township as of 8 a.m. Sunday.

Anna Halliburton, a township resident, said Deer Run Circle was "strewn" with fallen trees and power lines. Iseult Devlin, a Chatham Patch contributor, said a tree fell on upper Washington Avenue at approximately 2 p.m. Linda Ng of Mitchell Avenue said a neighbor's tree collapsed onto her roof and caused substantial damage to the roof and upper deck of her home.

Paton said "virtually every road" had some kind of issue from flooding or trees, branches or utility wires that came down overnight.

"It's bad, it's extremely bad," Department of Public Works Director John Pacelli said. "There are trees down everywhere, at least half with wires. I'm seeing water where I have not seen water before."

Borough police used crime scene tape to block off streets after they "practically ran out of signs" and cones blew away during the night, Vaughan said. Four Citizen Emergency Response Teams helped block intersections.

Several streets in the borough and township flooded, including:

  • River Road in the 700 block
  • Lafayette Avenue near Main Street
  • Fairmount Avenue near Railroad Plaza
  • Green Village Road near Britten Road
  • Central Avenue going into New Providence
  • Fairmount Avenue, almost the entire street

The following streets closed with live wires down:

  • Portions of Fairmount Avenue
  • Portions of Washington Avenue
  • Country Club Drive at Rolling Hill Drive
  • Deer Run Circle
  • River Road at the borough line
  • River Road and Southern Boulevard
  • Lafayette Avenue at Joanna Way
  • River Road in the 600 block
  • Falmouth Road
  • Fairmount Avenue and Mohawk Trail, which has "wires and telephone poles and trees down," Paton said.
  • Orchard Street between Fairmount and Washington Avenues and Fairmount Avenue between Oliver Street and Watchung Avenue, due to a split utility pole at Orchard and Oliver Streets.

The following streets were blocked by trees and impassable:

  • North Passaic Avenue
  • River Road
  • Main Street between Lafayette Avenue and Dunbar Street, with a large tree down at Dunbar Street near HSBC Bank
  • Hillside Avenue in Chatham Township north of Watchung Avenue

Township police said residents should "assume all downed trees contain power lines" and stay indoors.

Police and DPW employees in the borough and township worked throughout the night to clear what they could, despite flooding and downed wires in several areas.

Vaughan said borough employees pumped out between 35 and 40 basements during the night. As of 7:30 a.m., all reported basement floodings have been pumped, he said.

Paton said he "couldn't even tell" how many calls township police and fire departments responded to during the night.

Township police and Vaughan urged residents to stay indoors "even when the storm is over," according to an alert from township police, as streets with downed trees or utility poles will be impassible and unsafe for some time.

Utility companies were unable to respond during the night to repair downed poles or wires, both Vaughan and Pacelli said.

Department heads and local officials met in the late Saturday evening and decided to open the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), effective at 11 p.m.

Vaughan said a utility pole is "split and hanging" at Oliver and Orchard Streets, The pole was hit by a tree and the top of the pole is down, Vaughan said.

Another tree came down at Washington Avenue and Front Street.

The EOC closed officially at approximately 11 a.m. Sunday, Vaughan said.

Vaughan and Paton said residents should continue to stay indoors. "I can't stress that enough," Paton said. "Sometimes when the wind stops people want to go out in their yards. There might be a 10,000-volt line laying in that tree [residents] want to move."

Chatham Patch will provide further information as it becomes available.

What are conditions like in your neighborhood? Let us know at Laura.Silvius@Patch.com.

Helena Axelrod August 28, 2011 at 03:16 PM
We have no land line telephone service at Coleman West and Carmine. We called the phone company and they confirmed that it was the cable that was at fault.
JANET August 29, 2011 at 05:06 PM
Does anyone know if the roads to Sutton Woods are blocked and if Sutton Woods has power?
Joan August 29, 2011 at 06:18 PM
The power came back at 9:24AM and land line phone service about an hour later.
Mark August 29, 2011 at 07:32 PM
What is happening with the sewage treatment plants?

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