MORRIS COUNTY, NJ – The preparation and response to deadly Hurricane Ida throughout Morris County was praised Thursday, as county and municipal emergency response agencies continued to work to rescue, assist and aid residents and business owners hit by power outages, rising flood waters, downed wires, road closures, wind damage and fallen trees.
“I want to thank the County Office of Emergency Management and all of the County and local DPW crews, Sheriff’s Office, HazMat teams, the members of our Communications Center and local first responders for their tireless efforts in preparing for and responding to the unprecedented impact of the remnants of Hurricane Ida. Fortunately, we did not experience any loss of life and we are working hard to rebound as quickly as possible,” said Stephen H. Shaw, Director of the Morris County Board of County Commissioners.
With municipal police, firefighters, EMS and emergency management agencies, the response effort included the Morris County Office of Emergency Management; Morris County’s Road, Bridge and Shade Tree Division; the Morris County Sheriff’s Office, various HazMat teams, Morris County fire coordinators, and the members of the county’s critical Morris County 9-1-1/Communications Center.
Floods, downed wires, fallen trees and debris covered portions of 16 major Morris County thoroughfares Wednesday night, forcing most of them to be closed between 9:00 p.m. and 3:00 a.m.
“Crews will be clearing debris in roadways over the next several days and any downed trees from the rights of way for the next few weeks,” Morris County Engineer Chris Vitz said.
As Ida slammed New Jersey Wednesday night, Morris County’s 9-1-1/Communications Center began taking an overflow of emergency calls from other counties where 911 systems became overwhelmed. The Communications Center staff handled calls from as far south as Trenton, while also coordinating calls throughout Morris County.
“Our great Morris County 9-1-1/Communications Center handled a storm of calls all by themselves. I was on the 911 floor, and what I saw was remarkable,” Morris County OEM Director Jeff Paul said.
Paul also praised municipal responders, noting they assisted communities outside Morris County, including locations in Essex, Passaic and Somerset counties. Morris County fire coordinators were quick to respond with the county “Decon Unit” to aid residents outside the county. In addition, a swift-water rescue team from East Hanover, as well as high-water vehicles from the Morris County Park Police, assets from the Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Services Unit and fire assets from Picatinny Arsenal were utilized to aid outside counties as well as locations within Morris County.
The Morris County Mobile Ambulance Bus participated in a mutual aid response today in Somerset County, where 95 residents of the Willow Creek Nursing Home had to be relocated due to still rising waters of the nearby Raritan River. In addition, a Morris County OEM/EMS ambulance was dispatched to Somerset County as part of an EMS Strike Team.
More than 8,000 people were left without power at the height of the storm, but most emergency calls stemmed from people stuck in cars or even trapped in their homes by rising waters and floods. Downed, live wires and blocked roads that even hindered medical emergency responses compounded the challenges.