Keeping Watch for Hurricane Irene in Hoboken

We are staying in town but are planning to park our car in Union City to avoid risk of it getting completely flooded. Are planning to board up our windows & hunker down, but then we are on the 3rd floor of our building and chances are flash flooding wouldn’t get this high.

Really good article at the Boken Online about what to expect from the hurricane. Apparently the flooding will start well in advance of the hurricane’s actual arrival; the real danger is the additional rainfall that will get dumped on top of floodwaters.

http://thebokenonline.com/hoboken-headlines/hurricane-irene-to-rock-hoboken-this-weekend-let-us-pray-not/

Useful article about disaster preparedness for urban families.

Hurricane Irene timeline in South West Hoboken:

8/29/11, 8am: Woke up to find flood waters almost entirely receded from around our building. Still about 1′ deep waters on Harrison and Jackson Streets to the south of us, but hubby was able to make it to the Light Rail station without wading and made it into work (had to walk across lower Manhattan b/c the ferry service was limited, but you do what you have to do.) Retrieved our car from Sky Club Garage, driving the wrong way down 2nd Street to avoid flooded streets, but skies are sunny and clear and the storm is officially over.

8/28, 6:30pm: Winds are stronger than yesterday, trees continue to fall. Recharged cellphone & APC backup power pack in case we lose power again. Barricades and pretty serious flooding west of Willow Ave, water has stopped receding as high tide approaches.

8/28, 4:10pm: Power is back on!! Turns out PSE&G turned it off as preventative measure to avoid equipment damage; very smart! Rain has stopped completely but wind is picking up. Flood water receding slowly, garage now completely dry (some water came up thru sewers).
Video of Harrison Street: http://vimeo.com/28276368 (Sky Club Garage still impassable)
Video of 2nd Street: http://vimeo.com/28275379 (6″-12″ of flooding)

8/28, 10 am update: Rain stopped, sun starting to come out. Looks like the worst is over, flood waters reached about 5′ outside with some penetration into ground floor but not significant (didn’t reach lobby or parking spots)

8/28, overnight report: No flooding on second st until 6am, then a foot of water from the storm surge showed up. Water up to car tires on street, heavy rain, moderate wind. Tree or branch down on corner of 2nd & jackson. So far minimal damage to my building, water coming up thru sewer grates but it’s still walkable.

PSE&G turned off the power to my building from 7:40am until 4:10pm as a preventative measure. Had limited internet access during that time.

8/27, 1am: http://vimeo.com/28255152 Video of Harrison Street in SW Hoboken at 1am on Sunday 8/28. 6-12″ of flooding around Hertz Connect car.

http://yfrog.us/2o2j4z Video of 2nd St in SW #Hoboken at 1:10am on Sunday 8/28. Still no signs of flooding but it’s inevitable.

8/27, 12:10 am: http://yfrog.us/0g46956986z video of 2nd st in SW Hoboken. Heavy rain, moderate winds & no sign of flooding so far.

8/27, 11pm: Had a false alarm that we lost Fios internet access, saw on twitter that Hoboken is evacuating the Wallace shelter with buses. We are really and truly on our own in Hoboken.

8/27, 9:15pm update: Putting the kids to bed and getting ready for sleep myself. In case I wake up without power, I will keep updating my twitter stream as long as I have cellphone power & 3G access at http://twitter.com/kathyzucker. Fingers crossed for an uneventful wakeup! If we lose power, I am planning to tune into 1010 wins AM radio for updates.

8/27, 7:25 update: The rain is intensifying. Onsite handyman expects major flooding to start around 1am, he is getting some sleep now. Electrician tip; power can still function even if electrical box is underwater. Bigger problem is if building transformer in the street gets knocked out by winds & debris. Praying I have power in the AM.

8/27, 6pm update: Steady light rain with no signs of flooding, still some cars on the street. SW Hoboken street photo.

8/27, 4pm update: 150 free parking spots just became available for Hoboken residents w/valid parking permits at Midtown garage, entrance on 4th Street between Clinton & Grand. ALL TAKEN by 6pm.

8/27, 3:15pm update: Ran into a couple of neighbors who just parked their cars at Sky Club garage, entrance on 2nd St between Harrison & Marshall. There are still spots available at $30/day.

8/27, 2:40pm update: Moved my neighbor’s stuff indoors from their balcony. This has got to be the first time in 2+ years that I don’t miss the huge outdoor patio we had at our old apartment. Rain is off and on, not too heavy yet.

8/27, 9:40am update: Andy Denny is going around caulking the doorframes of Hoboken ground floor entrances (floodwater can seep through the cracks.) If you don’t have caulk, duct tape is a good second choice. Home Depot & all the hardware stores are completely sold out of sandbags, but pile something in front of your doors (rice? beanbags?) to impede the water’s progress.

8/27, 8:45am update: It takes about 12 hours for the initial Mozy.com online file backup; with the hurricane scheduled to hit at 8pm that is enough time to save copies of photos & your important documents (birth certificates?) in a place far, far from Hoboken. Totally worth the $120/year.

8/27, 8:15am update: Hurricane Irene got downgraded overnight (5-7″ of rain) but still expecting min 2′ of flooding in Hoboken. Praying it stays under 6′ since our electricity should stay on up to that level (it takes 2′ of water before it will enter our building & the electrical boxes are 4′ high).

Woke up to a bunch of emails from moms asking for hurricane advice; re. living on a floor above 10, here is what the FEMA website says:
High-rise buildings are also vulnerable to hurricane-force winds, particularly at the higher levels since wind speed tends to increase with height. Recent research suggests you should stay below the tenth floor, but still above any floors at risk for flooding. It is not uncommon for high-rise buildings to suffer a great deal of damage due to windows being blown out. Consequently, the areas around these buildings can be very dangerous.

8/26, 11pm update: Cleared the kid toys and painting easel off our balcony in preparation for hurricane winds. Will do the same tomorrow AM for neighbor who is on vacation. Weather seems normal so far. Am systematically boiling filtered water in our electric kettle, letting it cool and filling washed juice jugs to have sterile drinking water on hand in case we run out of bottled water.

8/26, 9:45pm update: Just signed up for City of Hoboken emergency text messages in case I lose internet access; entered address into system so they know where to find me just in case.

8/26, 7pm update: One of my companies is giving away ~3,000 cans of non-alcoholic relaxation beverage tomorrow to help Hoboken residents weather Hurricane Irene, details at http://twitter.com/#!/drinkserenity/status/107224567713497088

8/26, 3:45pm update: Great Hoboken Patch article with links on where to evacuate with pets + private parking garage availability at http://bit.ly/rue6M1

8/26, 3pm update:

  • You should be okay if you live on floors 3-10 (flooding risk below 3, wind risk above 10)
  • You will be able to cook if you have a gas stove (should work even if electricity goes out but keep a lighter handy to light the gas)
  • Stock up on plenty of food & water (week’s worth), get spare cell phone batteries if you don’t have a land line, keep the City of Hoboken’s emergency # handy: 201-239-6643/6644, direct info at http://twitter.com/#!/cityofhoboken
  • If you have double-paned windows (ie. new construction building), they are unlikely to break in the storm even if you sustain a direct hit from debris
  • Hurricane prep: Secure all loose outdoor items (either tie them down or put them away) and take window/wall air conditioning units out since they will get destroyed.

I’ve been talking to developers and general contractors who have been through Hoboken hurricanes before and they think we will be flooded from Sunday-Tuesday AM because there is nowhere for the flood water to go before then with high tide coming every 12 hours. Will most likely lose electricity for most if not all of that time.

8/26, 12 noon update: Just spoke to Andy Denny and home depot is close to completely sold out of sand bags. He is swamped with phone calls from people wanting him to watch their properties, his assistant is keeping a numbered list of requests but he’s not going to be able to take care all of them since he is only one person. First-come, first-served. Andy expects Hoboken to be flooded from Sunday through Tuesday because it will take the flood waters a while to subside. If we get 2-4 feet of flooding then he should be able to pump out ground-floor properties on Tuesday, if we get 10 feet then God help us all.

8/25, 10pm update: Just did a bunch of work and updated offsite data backup at mozy.com, sent email to clients warning them I might be offline for a while if hurricane winds knock out cellphone towers since I lost Fios access all day today and had to use PDAnet via my cellphone 3G connection. My business will continue unimpeded even if Hoboken is underwater!

8/25, 9pm update: Just spoke to handyman Andy Denny & he is going to be onsite in South West Hoboken throughout the hurricane WITH his industrial-strength pump keeping an eye on a couple of buildings. If you have ground-floor property he recommends getting sandbags ASAP to block off entrance doors and to duct tape plastic over the doors. Once the flood waters start receding, you can call him at 201-667-1806 to come pump out your property & assess damage repairs, first-come, first-served.

8/25, 5pm update: I just parked my car at the Sky Club garage (entrance on 2nd St between Harrison & Marshall Streets). The garage is six stories; based on my quick scan of the second & third floors, there looked to be about five available public parking spots per floor for a total of 25 spots on floors 2-6. I think the second floor will be fine since the ceilings are very high, so that is easily 10-12 feet above street level. Daily rate is $30, don’t forget to take your ticket to pay at the front desk before retrieving your car! My husband’s employer told him not to come to work Monday, so we are taking the hurricane watch seriously.

8/25, 3pm update: Just got back from hurricane prep shopping. Target is very low on flashlights & C batteries, Jersey City A&P still has plenty of non-perishable food (bought week’s worth of cereal, granola bars, nuts, fruit cups, juice & shelf-stable milk) and water, low on shelf-stable cow’s milk but lots of soy milk left. Bought a 164-minute backup power supply from Best Buy for $199, there were two left and one 140-minute supply. Planning to move my car to high ground or a free municipal garage later this afternoon since I think there’s a good chance that my ground-floor indoor garage could flood from Hurricane Irene.

8/25, 11am update: The eye of Hurricane Irene is scheduled to hit the NYC area at 8pm on Saturday 8/27. I have been talking to my Hoboken-based contacts and they say the 100-year flood mark is right below the electrical meters in the ground floor electrical room in my building. The last major hurricane to hit NYC was in the 1930s, so that is the benchmark I am using for this storm. If the storm makes land, it will hit Brooklyn first and then make its way northeast, impacting lower Manhattan and Hoboken equally (same elevation).

If there is a storm surge, the flooding will start in Hoboken on Friday and then the rain dumped on top of it on Saturday will make the water surge to several feet. It should not reach the second floor but you can expect 2-3 feet of water west of Washington Street.

It’s safe to assume we will lose electricity for a few days. I am refilling prescriptions now to make sure I have enough medication to take us through at least a week. We are getting a radio, cellphone chargers, batteries, backup power supply at Best Buy. I also need duct tape for the windows, have plenty of water and food.

NOTE TO CONDO BOARDS: You might want to bring your elevators to the top floor of the building and lock them there since the cabs will get damaged if there is major first floor flooding and they would be expensive to replace. For ground-floor units, sandbags & plastic over doors will help keep water out although if the flood waters are really high, those efforts won’t matter.

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Kathy Zucker

Author: Kathy Zucker

Mom of 3. Accidental entrepreneur. Fencer. New York Life Shorty Award #KeepGoodGoing winner & judge. Helping parents & kids get to work since 2010 as Metro Moms Network CEO.

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5 Comments

  1. Kathy Zucker

    Kurt, you are welcome! Good work at the Boken Online.

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  2. Hi, Kathy! I have a daughter who has been in Hoboken about a year. She is on Willow in a basement apt. Neighbor is telling her she overreacts in trying to move things higher cause he doesn’t think they’ll get much if any water. I don’t concur. Any idea how many feet they might get at a Cat 1 level? She is torn with how much to prepare. No one seems to have specific info like you do!! I’m impressed! Thanks and stay safe!

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  3. Kathy Zucker

    Hi, Jan! Tell your daughter to look at the electrical meters in her building. That is how high the water is likely to go (historical flood mark is right below, that is why they are placed at that height). When the storm surge hits on Saturday/Sunday, I would assume we will get a minimum of two feet of water.

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  4. Thanks, Kathy! Stay safe!

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