The good news in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene is that no one in Monmouth County was killed, thanks in large part to early evacuation warnings from Gov. Christie on down through the county and local Offices of Emergency Management.

Nonetheless, a number of areas in Monmouth County sustained property damage due to severe flooding. Irene dumped between 9 and 12 inches of rain in our area, resulting in inland flooding when rivers and streams became swollen well beyond capacity.

Along the beach, waves pummeled Spring Lake so hard that much of its 2-mile-long   boardwalk was lifted off its footings.

On Sunday morning, the Manasquan River rose so high that the Manasquan River Regional Sewerage Authority feared the water would flood out the pumping station on Route 547 in Howell. The county Department of Public Works and Engineering responded and brought in clay from the county landfill to build a berm to protect. Concrete barriers also were brought in to steer the rushing water away from the pump house. Had the county not acted so quickly, the pump would have had to been shut down causing a sewage backup in Howell and Farmingdale.

As the day unfolded county OEM learned that a number of small county bridges that span the Manasquan River in Howell were topped over with water. In other areas, dams and spillways were simply no match for the volume of water and several roads were washed out as a result.

An untold number of trees toppled over and onto power lines, houses or into the streets. As of   Wednesday following the storm, thousands of county residents were still without electricity as Jersey Central Power & Light Co. crews worked to restore power.

Throughout the storm, the county’s Emergency Operations Center was fully staffed around the clock Saturday morning through Sunday evening. It is the first time the center was staffed 24 hours a day for a major event.

It was staffed by representatives from the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM),   Department of Public Works and Engineering, Public Information, Health Department, Human Services, MC Prosecutor’s Office, state police New Jersey Natural Gas Co., Red Cross, JCP&L, and several volunteers answering telephones.

The 9-1-1 Call Center answered 6,211 calls on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday and Saturday leading up to the storm, as many as 2,200 residents were sheltered at three locations in what was the first forced evacuations ever in Monmouth County.

Immediately following the storm, county engineers were busy re-inspecting all 980 county bridges, and worked into the night to draw up plans for projects that needed rehabilitation. Other divisions within the Department of Public Works and Engineering have been reassigned and are working 12-hour days to assist the engineers with their inspections.

In addition to road closures, lingering problems beyond the county’s control included traffic signals that were not working due to power outages, and fallen trees that could not be removed right away because they had come into contact with power lines.

County employees worked hard throughout the storm and in the days and nights afterward to minimize the impact of Hurricane Irene. Even Gov. Christie complimented Monmouth County for its preparation and response to the storm.

In other county news, there will be a county-sponsored job fair on September 22nd from 4 to 7 p.m. at the recreation and Events Center at Brookdale Community College, Lincroft.

To better prepare jobseekers, special “Job Fair Workshop Series” are being held prior to the Job Fair. Workshops open to the public on three consecutive Wednesdays began Aug.  31. Two more will be held Sept. 7 and Sept. 14 from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. at the Monmouth County Division of Employment and Training at 145 Wyckoff Rd., Eatontown. In addition, career seminars will be held on site during the Job Fair.

The Workforce Investment Board (WIB), which oversees the Division of Employment and Training, is now offering a new series of workshops called Ignite! These are targeted for jobseekers just starting out in their careers. It is a free networking group for people who are having the hardest time finding a job. The unemployment rate for seasoned employees is about 9 percent, while first-time jobseekers are facing a 12 percent to 15 percent unemployment rate.

In the area of shared services, a seminar scheduled Aug. 29 was canceled due to the arrival of Hurricane Irene. This meeting was designed to address shared services with representatives from all 53 municipalities. It has not yet been rescheduled.

I recently met with Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and Administrator Harold Woolley to discuss opportunities available by partnering with Monmouth County

Thomas A. Arnone
Monmouth County Freeholder