More than 100 residents of the Greenbriar I adult community in Brick remained out of their homes Tuesday, following an 8-inch torrent of rain that burst open a dam, partially collapsed a culvert over a roadway and backed up sewers.
Residents met with Brick officials at noon Tuesday to learn what’s in store for them – part of a process that draws myriad parallels to similar gatherings after Superstorm Sandy struck in 2012. But despite its much smaller scale, residents have even more to worry about this time than those affected by the hurricane. Since Greenbriar I is not in a flood zone, residents say they did not have flood insurance and are already battling with their home insurance companies. Gov. Phil Murphy signed a formal disaster declaration Tuesday morning which Mayor John Ducey said could start the process of obtaining federal recovery funding.
“There are 104 homes that can’t be occupied because there is no gas and no electricity,” said Ducey. “Until JCP&L gives the okay, the houses are uninhabitable, but they are out there right now.”
Ducey said homeowners should return to their homes to ensure building inspectors and utility companies can access their property to turn services back on.
On Whitman Street, which circles a lake that is part of a branch of the Metedeconk River, a dam has been severely damaged and the road closed. The culvert has partially collapsed on each side, leaving a sharp, 10-foot drop cut out of the soil and concrete. Ducey said the emergency repairs are current being planned.
The bulk of the damaged homes are not located directly adjacent to the dam, but instead closer to the Garden State Parkway, causing many residents to frustratedly question whether or not recent construction on the state highway and several county roads that were rebuilt to open up a new interchange contributed to the disastrous flooding.
“It sounded like a typhoon was coming in the house,” said Kevin Smith, who lives on one of the streets near the Parkway. “Within two minutes, it all came rushing in the house. It was flowing from one end to another.”
“We had Superstorm Sandy, and nothing like this occurred,” he continued. “Something’s wrong, something caused this. The town has to go after the Parkway now. They dug a gully down in the road and that’s where the runoff water is supposed to run.”
Brick’s state legislative representatives issued a joint press release Tuesday afternoon calling for an investigation into whether the highway construction contributed to the flood.
“The flooding that occurred yesterday along Burrsville Road and in Greenbriar is unlike anything the area has previously experienced, including during Sandy,” said Sen. James Holzapfel. “We’re concerned that the recent reconfiguration of Exit 91 has impacted the area to make it susceptible to flooding. The NJDOT needs to investigate and undertake improvements if that’s the case.”
Assemblyman David Wolfe called the flooding “a little suspicious” in an area that has not seen flooding in nearly 50 years.
“We need to know if changes to the grading or drainage in the area led to this flooding, and we need a plan to prevent it from happening again,” Wolfe said.
Ducey said the township is actively searching out funding that could help residents recover.
“The governor is going to lobby FEMA, but we do need a dollar amount for them to consider … so we have building inspectors going door-to-door doing assessments,” said Ducey.
“The next step, then, is the rebuilding process,” Ducey said, which causes extra worry given the fact that so many Sandy victims were swindled in the wake of the storm. This time, unscrupulous contractors could be even more brazen since elderly residents are affected.
“We want to make sure that everyone is taken care of, and no one has their life savings stolen,” he said.