WESTFIELD, NJ — Three people were rescued from the roof of a special education school in Westfield, N.J. after the school began flooding Wednesday, and 16 adults and a child were rescued from submerged cars, according to the town. Also, someone suffered a head wound when a tree fell on their house. More details of the rescues amid Tropical Depression Ida are below.
The area was still under a flood warning Friday, according to the NWS: “Several rivers and streams remain in minor to moderate flood. Between 5 and 8.5 inches of rain fell across the region from the remnants of Ida.” See area watches here.
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Details of the incidents are below.
Dramatic Rescues, Tree Through A Roof, More:
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The Westfield Fire Department rescued three staff members of Lamberts Mill Academy from the school’s rooftop who were seeking refuge when the building was rapidly inundated with rising flood waters. They were stuck up there for several hours. 9-1-1 Police-Fire-EMS dispatchers remained in telephone contact with them while they were trapped in order to ensure they remained accounted for. Numerous vehicles were completely submerged in flood waters on the 1500 block of Lamberts Mill Road in the area of the school, the town said.
A tree fell through the roof of a single story residence on Delaware Street. The dining room ceiling collapsed as the tree pierced the roof. One resident sustained a head laceration and was treated and transported to RWJ Hospital in Rahway by the Westfield Rescue Squad. The injury was deemed not life-threatening. The residence sustained significant structural damage and is to be inspected by the Construction Official. It does not appear to be inhabitable, and the family has relocated to Clark.
The Westfield Police and Fire Departments conducted numerous rescues of people trapped in submerged vehicles. Sixteen adults and one child were transported to a temporary shelter established by the Office of Emergency Management in the Community Room. Three were treated immediately upon their arrival there by the Westfield Rescue Squad for exposure. One sustained a knee injury during a fall.
All persons at the shelter were provided with blankets, water, and snacks, and some with dry clothing. Any persons who were unable to arrange for transportation home from the shelter following the receding of floodwaters were transported by the Westfield Police Department to their residences or other places of their choosing. This included locations well outside of Union County. The shelter remained operational until approximately 2 a.m., when the last people were transferred to a shelter at the Chisholm Community Center in Springfield, where they joined other members of their family who had been relocated there.
Numerous vehicles were reported floating down the 300 block of E. North Avenue and other streets, many of which had not been prone to localized flooding in the past. Some of those vehicles were occupied by persons who were rescued. A brand new police patrol vehicle was destroyed in flood waters on Mohawk Trail and another sustained damage as a result of a crash while responding to an emergency call for service in near zero visibility. A Westfield Fire Department staff vehicle was also destroyed by flood waters.
Updates For Westfield Residents
Streets: All streets and roads are presently open with the exception of Springfield Avenue from E. Broad Street to Mill Lane (tree down on wires; road impassable).
Cars Damaged: Damaged and abandoned cars were moved to the side of the road by the DPW using heavy machinery. “Such action was necessary to allow for the passage of emergency vehicles and was done by the authority of the chief of police and in the interest of ensuring public safety. All of these vehicles were likely destroyed by flood waters and could not be towed in a timely manner. It is estimated that 30 to 40 vehicles moved in this manner.”
Help: The Westfield Fire Department is currently conducting dewatering operations of private residences as a public service. Please contact the Westfield Fire Department at 908-789-4130 if you require their services.
The town said:
“This localized flooding was unprecedented, and we commend the efforts of the Westfield Police and Fire Departments, and the Westfield Rescue Squad, which operated under extremely difficult and dangerous conditions … there [was] no mutual aid.”
“All members of the Westfield’s Police and Fire Department’s command staff were present for duty. There were no member of service injuries reported. Residents are reminded to report any unsafe conditions immediately via 9-1-1.”
“We expect that many of our residents sustained significant property damage. However, as a community, we are extremely fortunate there was no loss of life. Property damage in neighboring municipalities like Cranford is likely much worse than here in Westfield. Some residents have already inquired about insurance claims for damage. As of now, there has been no FEMA declaration, which can only be done by the president, and no word yet on whether or not one will be issued. Residents are encouraged to retain any and all receipts for damages.”
“In order to allow for residents to dispose of any bulky waste or debris that may have resulted from the flooding, we will be waiving the Conservation Center fee for any Westfield resident for the foreseeable future. The Conservation Center will be reopening tomorrow with extended hours through the weekend from 9-5.”
Additional Information From Patch
While some may consider flash floods just an inconvenience, these floods have proved fatal to drivers (sometimes trapping parents and children in their cars as water rises) and to children playing near small streams.
Severe storms are becoming more frequent. In fact, Hurricane Elsa in July 2021 was the earliest E-named storm in modern weather history.
See prior Union County storm coverage here.
Forecasters are now watching Hurricane Larry in the Atlantic. Track it here.
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