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UPDATE: Massive Berkeley Brush Fire Nearly…

Hightstown Flooding Causes Widespread Damage

Boil advisory continues to be in affect.

Hightstown Borough Council voted to declare an emergency and lifted the fee for bulk trash pickup in wake of .

The Borough Council passed both with a 6-0 vote Monday night.

Cleanup has begun in areas hit hard by floodwaters, including Borough Hall, the police department, the water plant and several businesses downtown.

“I’ve personally never seen water come in that fast,” said Larry Van Kirk, fire chief and office of emergency management coordinator, referring to how fast floodwaters inundated the firehouse.

Flooding didn’t stop the Hightstown Fire Department from operating, Van Kirk said.

“Fire suppression was never in jeopardy, at all, in the borough of Hightstown,” Van Kirk said at the council meeting. “We never refused to go to a fire call in this town.”

Borough Hall was declared “structurally sound” and cleanup efforts have begun.

“In the last 24 hours we have made astounding accomplishments in getting Borough Hall up and running so that we can serve the residents of this town,” said Borough Clerk Debra Sopronyi.

Some residents criticized the borough saying not enough was done to prevent Peddie Lake from overflowing. Officials disagreed and said measures were taken to prevent flooding but it was unstoppable.

“We took precautions for more than a hundred years storm,” said Council President Lawrence Quattrone, who also served as acting mayor while Mayor Steve Kirson was on vacation.

Quattrone said the dam was opened and they did everything they could.

“When the wall gave way we had a surge of water that was just unbelievably, couldn’t handle it.  It was like turning the lake loose,” Quattrone said.

Town services are being offered at the Hightstown Public Works building starting Tuesday where Borough Hall will be temporarily set up.

Township officials said volunteers have been a valuable part of the cleanup effort and reiterated the amount of help Home Depot, Peddie School, East Windsor School District, East Windsor Township and other volunteers have provided by sending manpower and equipment.

"They've [East Windsor Township] lent us trucks. They've lent us main power," Quattrone said. "They've been a very great neighbor."

Residents should continue to boil water, officials said. Water samples will be taken tomorrow and it typically takes 24 hours for preliminary results, 48 hours for final results. If final results come back clean, the boil notice can be lifted.

The boil notice comes after the water treatment plant was inundated with water and the possibility the water is contaminated.

This does not mean showers are out of the questions, according to Sharon Lane, public health nurse for the Borough. Lane advises the water should not be ingested while showering, and children should be supervised so they do not ingest water.

Officials are also asking that residents conserve water as much as possible until the plant is back to its capacity.

“We’re not saying to you ‘don’t shower,’ use it minimally,” Quattrone said, reminding residents to conserve water as much as possible.

Larry Blake, lead operator at the Township’s water plant, said everything was destroyed in the flood, with up to 13 feet of water in the basement.

“We lost everything in there, all the controls and motors,” Blake said.

Blake is keeping his fingers crossed that manual operation of the plant will be viable this week, however complete automation of operations will take awhile.

The fire department is trying to help conserve water by bringing in tankers to fight any fires that may arise, according to Van Kirk.

The police department was also flooded and 9-1-1 calls are being routed through Cranbury until the department sets up a temporary station at Lucas Electric, on Mercer Street, said Hightstown police Sgt. Frank Gendron.

Temporary 9-1-1 lines are trying to be brought to Lucas Electric today, Gendron said.

The police have received assistance from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office with manpower and using their trailer as a temporary station where officers can charge radios and use the bathroom.

Officers are working overtime to collect confidential records from the destroyed police department and seal them so they can be moved, Gendron said. 

Several businesses remain closed, but ones that are open are in compliance with the Board of Health.

“As of now all establishments are in compliance,” Lane said. “If they’re closed, they’re closed voluntarily.”

Molto Bene Caffe e Mercato Italiano announced on Facebook Monday they will be closed until further notice from storm damage.

“Thank you thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone that came out today to lend a hand,” Molto Bene wrote on its Facebook page. “It was a great start but there is a lot more to go. Any help in the upcoming days is greatly appreciated. We will be at Molto Bene tomorrow [Tuesday] by 8 a.m.”

Tavern on the Lake thanked volunteers for helping clean up on its Facebook page, and said they will open Tuesday.

“Not sure what kind of menu there will be, but the bar will be open tomorrow at 11:30 [a.m.] and we will be serving dinner starting at 5 p.m.!!,” Tavern on the Lake wrote on its Facebook page.

Andrew M. Galbraith Ryer August 30, 2011 at 12:26 AM
Where are they meeting?
Ashley Peskoe (Editor) August 30, 2011 at 12:40 AM
At the Hightstown First Aid, 168 Bank St, http://patch.com/E-hnDF
Rebecca August 30, 2011 at 02:22 AM
Any updates? When will we have safe water?
Ashley Peskoe (Editor) August 30, 2011 at 02:28 AM
Full story coming after the meeting with updates
Rebecca August 30, 2011 at 10:06 AM
Thank you Ashley. Patch has been our lifeline during all this!
Andrew M. Galbraith Ryer August 30, 2011 at 11:03 AM
What wall is Larry Quattrone referring to (that "gave loose")?
Mike August 30, 2011 at 11:09 AM
At the meeting Larry Quattrone, acting Mayor during the storm, became indignant when Borough preparation for the storm was criticized, treating such comments as being attacks on Borough personnel. In spite of absolutely no evidence of such action (there were several images available of a visibly lowered Branerd Lake Cranbury), he asserted that Peddie Lake had been 'lowered' prior to the storm (as was done in neighboring Cranbury) when in fact a Borough official the night of the storm asserted that lowering the lake could not be done because it required 'DEP approval.' Fran Palumbo, a local business owner, expressed criticism of the Borough's apparent lack of preparation for the storm, which severely damaged several downtown businesses, in addition to largely wiping out a good portion of the Borough's municipal infrastructure. Palumbo's criticism's were not favorably received by Quattrone.
Dave Bell August 30, 2011 at 12:06 PM
Town services are at WEST WINDSOR public works? I thought it was at Hightstowns public works???
Dotty August 30, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Criticizing officials is not helping If you think you could do better, then where were you at the time of need? We need to be more proactive and less complaining.
Dotty August 30, 2011 at 01:05 PM
Thank you Ashley for keeing us informed. Good job!
Dennis Symons August 30, 2011 at 01:42 PM
Take a look at all the NJ Turnpike construction and where the water drains to. Maybe their retention basins were undersized for all that new construction and ruined Hightstown.
Wayne August 30, 2011 at 09:22 PM
For all those criticizing "the Borough's apparent lack of preparation for the storm", what do you suggest they should have done to prevent this natural disaster........hire Moses to divert the water around town? Yes Hightstown has suffered a lot of damage, so have thousands of towns up and down the east coast. Be thankful it wasn't worse, because it could have been!
Dave Bell August 30, 2011 at 10:55 PM
Well said Wayne!! It's easy to guess after but didn't see too many volunteers offering to sand bag befor or even carrying mops after. But also good point about water run off changing since Turnpike construction started. I do remember some residents saying they had flooding problems they never had befor and that was year or more ago.
Jimbo August 30, 2011 at 11:19 PM
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910. What happened to our country - everyboody just complains
Sharon H August 31, 2011 at 12:55 AM
What happened to our country? have things really changed on the criticism level since Roosevelt lived? If it had not been a problem in 1910 he would not have written this wisdom. It is with us because it is so easy to criticize and feel puffed up for seeing solutions so clearly after the fact.
Hights_Rez August 31, 2011 at 02:46 AM
not sure what has me more perplexed? The fact that people are actually trying to pin blame on others and criticize what should have been done, or that people are celebrating the actions of these 4 guys who are bragging about what they did during the storm and the awesome time they had. The storm not only devastateded our town, but also took the life of a local EMT. To those of you complaining, head into town and offer your help to those who need it. And to you knuckleheads celebrating the awesome time you had during the storm, have some respect for the life that was lost and the families that weren't as fortunate as you were. I hope for your sakes, that after you posted your Youtube videos, you were decent enough to lend a hand on the cleanup efforts.
Rebecca August 31, 2011 at 01:42 PM
We would love daily updates, if possible, on where things stand with the water plant. Do they have to rebuild everything? Are we days or weeks or months away from safe water? Is there any way to tap into East Windsor water supply?
whatever41 August 31, 2011 at 03:07 PM
Right on Wayne. All the finger pointers, stop whining and pitch in with the cleanup. Thank God no one was killed here.
Diana Lang August 31, 2011 at 03:21 PM
In an effort to aid in the recovery caused by the hurricane, I will be offering limited edition prints of the Hightstown flower baskets for only $20.00. ALL profits will go to the fund that Downtown Hightstown has created. Please call Diana at 609-462-1519 or email Diana@DianaPLangPhotography.com
Pamela Baur August 31, 2011 at 06:40 PM
Now is not the time to point fingers and blame. I feel the Borough acted appropriately. We our luckly that our only concern is boiling water. Thanks to all borough employees and volunteers who worked tirelessly throughout the storm for our safety and well being.

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