Irene Recovery Remembered By Those Who Felt Damage
Hillsborough business owners and homeowners showed resolve while recovering from storm.
The corn at the Hillsboro Farm Country Market might not be quite as high an elephant’s eye, but at least it is standing.
About a year ago, after Hurricane Irene blasted through New Jersey, Doug Van Nuys looked out over sections of cornfields damaged by high winds and heavy rain along with a destroyed tomato crop and much of the pumpkin crop.
“You never do recover,” he said this week, “just go on, deal with it.”
The Hillboro Farm was one of many businesses, homes and establishments damaged during last year’s Hurricane Irene. Some of the damage was caused by flooding, some by wind and more by the loss of electric power.
After the storm the township issued inspection notices to 45 homeowners telling them that the home would need to be inspected before they could move back in.
In the days following Irene, Van Nuys said, his customers returned, which helped offset the losses. Crops are not insured, he said, so “the losses were on me.”
The business returned slowly, starting a couple days after the storm passed, he said, but it return.
“So much depends on the customer,” he said.
While Van Nuys gazed at damaged crops, Pastor Stephen Eckert looked at six feet of water in the basement of his South Branch Reformed Church.
In all, he said, the church sustained $50,000 to $55,000 in damage when the South Branch of the Raritan River overflowed the area, flooding across a small stand of trees and River Road to engulf the church, which is across the road from the river.
The church has been at that spot since 1850, he said, and the 135-member congregation has an emotional and spiritual attachment to it.
The majority of the cost of the repairs, about $48,000, were paid for by church members, Eckert said. The rest was raised through the church’s regional authority and a series of fundraisers.
“It is a testament to the people dedicated to this church,” he said. “This church has a great past and we are looking to the future.”
Volunteers began to show up right away, he said, and the work took about five days.
They were hampered by the lack of water, Eckert said.
“Funny thing is that you need water to clean up water damage,” he said. “We are on a well system and lost power. It was a long five days.”
During the storm Eckert said, when he was taking a break as a member of the Hillsborough Fire Company No. 1, he would stop by the church to see how the water was entering the building. The church has been flooded before, he said, and will be again.
But each time it happens it is a chance to learn how to protect the building better, Eckert said.
“I watched the water rise to see how it was rising and where so we can make adjustments,” he said.
Out on the Millstone River Road, Bill Courtier and his family contended with four feet of water in the first floor of the house.
The house, on an acre and a half along the Millstone River was built in the mid-1950s in a flood plan, Courtier said. That location was not a problem until recently, he said.
In the 26 years his family has lived there, Courtier said, development along the river and upstream has changed the water flow and the ability of the small river to stay in its banks.
The development, he said is evident in the amount of traffic that passes the house each day.
“It used to be that maybe 100 cars a day would pass by,” he said. “Now in the morning, it’s 100 an hour.”
With repeated floods, Courtier said he approached the township to ask about buying him out. He said his application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency was turned down.
Courtier said he got no help from township officials, who he said are “dragging their feet.”
Deputy Mayor Gloria McCauley said the township is examining the situation, but has reached no conclusions. Somerset County is also discussing the potential of using state Green Acres or Blue Acres funds to pay for property buyouts in flood plains
The State of New Jersey and FEMA have agreed to spend $3.9 million purchase 13 residences along the Millstone River in Manville.
FEMA will consider a home for buyout if it is deemed uninhabitable, McCauley said. The Township Committee has been reluctant to commit local tax dollars for buyouts, she said.
Courtier said his property would make a lovely township park.