Hoboken Mayor Updates Residents Following Wednesday’s Severe Storms

Mayor Ravi Bhalla issued the following press release regarding the severe flooding which hit Hoboken on Wednesday:

 

UPDATE FROM MAYOR BHALLA ON YESTERDAY’S FLOODING IN HOBOKEN

 

Yesterday, Hoboken experienced it’s second major flooding event in under two weeks, following Tropical Storm Fay on July 10. Yesterday’s storm produced a staggering one inch of rain in just eight minutes – the most intense storm Hoboken has seen since our second flood pump came online in 2016, and one of, if not the most intense storms over the past decade. The peak 15-minute interval of the storm had a rate of 4.72 inches of rain per hour, more than two and a half times the intensity of Tropical Storm Fay, and almost three times the intensity of the Cinco de Mayo storm in 2017. Two inches of rain fell yesterday in Hoboken in under two and a half hours, compared to three inches of rain in six hours during Tropical Storm Fay, and three inches of rain in eight hours during the May 5, 2017 storm. This was, according to the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (NHSA), the equivalent of another 50 year storm.

 

(Please note that thunderstorms are in the forecast for Thursday afternoon and/or evening, with some storms potentially becoming severe. The Office of Emergency Management has taken precautions to place barricades in flood prone areas. Advisory no parking signs have also been placed in areas that typically flood, please avoid driving during the heavy rain.)

 

Similar to Tropical Storm Fay, Hoboken’s two flood pumps were in operation throughout yesterday’s storm and pumped over 15 million gallons of water during and after the storm. As was the case during the tropical storm, the rate of rain yesterday (two inches in just two and a half hours) was far greater than capacity of the sewers flowing to the pumps, resulting in the back-up of rain from the sewers into the streets. While the pumps continued to pump several million gallons of water from our streets during and after the rainfall ended, the sheer volume of rain resulted in flooding in certain areas that don’t normally flood, and took hours to pump out the majority of the water. As before, NHSA has confirmed that the water receded in most locations at a faster rate compared to a situation where the pumps were not functional.

 

While drains were cleared out before the storm, some debris did end up in the system causing back-ups in certain regions. NHSA and City staff continue to clear out these drains today in the storm’s aftermath, and power wash regions that have been affected.

 

Unfortunately, this message is all too familiar for residents given we provided similar information two weeks ago. Many are understandably asking, if there was a 50 year storm two weeks ago, how do you explain another 50 year storm yesterday? The reality is, according to numerous scientific studies, these types of storms are already becoming much more frequent and with greater intensity, due to rising global temperatures and climate change, and will continue on this pattern. In fact, one study determined the heaviest 1% of rain events in the Northeast region of the United States have increased by 42%since the 1950s. Needless to say, here in Hoboken, we’re experiencing first-hand the fact that intense rainfall events are occurring more frequently than they were decades ago. This is not to shift the blame, it is simply to give context and a holistic view of what is occurring in Hoboken. (click here to learn more about what Hoboken is doing to combat climate change: https://www.hobokennj.gov/resources/greenhouse-gas-emissions-inventory-and-climate-action-plan)

 

To reiterate several points we communicated about in relation to combating flooding, please see communication below sent on July 11 after Tropical Storm Fay:

 

It’s unlikely Hoboken will completely solve what are currently 50-year storms or worse anytime soon without $3 billion

 

To be completely straightforward – given Hoboken’s low-lying typography and location right next to the Hudson River, even with unlimited funding, we are unlikely to solve the most severe of storms (50-year flooding event or worse), like we experienced yesterday. Most of Hoboken, especially the western part of the City, was developed on land that was previously tidal wetlands from the Hudson River. NHSA estimates that to prevent the most severe of flooding events, like the storm we saw yesterday, we would need to replace our entire sewer system, which would cost an estimated $3 billion. Needless to say, this is an impractical solution.

 

Nonetheless, Hoboken is making major investments into mitigating the large majority of storms and heavy rain events that are more frequent

 

But what we can do, and what we have been doing, thanks in large part to our strong partnership with the leadership and commissioners at NHSA, is to continue with investing in smart, sensible flood infrastructure that will help alleviate the majority of flooding events. As we’ve communicated about previously, under construction right now is another resiliency park in Northwest Hoboken, that will have the ability to store up to 2 million gallons of rainwater when complete, and further mitigate flooding in Northwest Hoboken. And, our $230 million Rebuild by Design project is one of the most innovative projects in the entire state to eventually protect from storm surge from the Hudson River through above ground amenities, including a public park. We’re continuing to build rain gardens, cisterns, and integrate flood infrastructure into a number of our City projects as a matter of policy. In the past few years, both of our parks in Southwest Hoboken and at 7th and Jackson have come online that include green infrastructure and underground detention systems to withhold hundreds of thousands of gallons of rainwater.

 

(click here for more details on Hoboken’s comprehensive flood mitigation strategies: https://arcg.is/15PPfz)

 

While the two flood pumps, resiliency parks and other green infrastructure can’t solve every flood event, like yesterday, they do help prevent flooding from occurring during storms of less than 50 year frequency

 

As the statistics and facts show, Hoboken’s two new flood pumps, along with our resiliency parks have successfully prevented flooding during many storms, and regular rainfall events that would have previously caused flooding on our streets. While we are compiling recent statistics with NHSA, during the first 10 months since the H-5 pump came online (the H-1 pump went online in 2011), the flood pumps together helped prevent flooding during 88% of rain events, including two heavy rainstorms that had peak intensities of 1.5 inches of rain per hour. Again, we won’t be able to prevent the most severe of storms like Tropical Storm Fay, but we are making important progress.

 

Overall, we are investing significant funding, much of it through grants, low-interest loans with principal forgiveness, and other mechanisms (that doesn’t place an undue burden on the taxpayer) to combat flooding from rain events. Combined, with our flood infrastructure at our Northwest Resiliency Park, 7th and Resiliency Jackson Park, Southwest Resiliency Park, Hoboken’s two flood pumps and new rain gardens on Washington Street, Hoboken and the North Hudson Sewerage Authority have financed or sponsored over $140 million in capital projects over the past decade to reduce the risk associated with heavy rain events.

 

I understand that the explanations above may not be of any comfort to those who had flood damage in their homes, were stuck in a car stuck in flood waters, or had cars that didn’t start this morning. We will continue to do to do everything we can to keep moving forward and invest in sensible flood infrastructure that chips away, although may never fully solve, this century-old problem for the most severe of storms like yesterday.

 

Finally, I want to thank the North Hudson Sewerage Authority and staff from the Department of Environmental Services for spending time this morning clearing debris from several of the flooded areas. This is a task that often gets overlooked, and I appreciate their efforts.

 

Sincerely,

 

Ravi S. Bhalla

Mayor

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