The largest Atlantic storm on record, Hurricane Sandy, hit the northeastern United States on October 29th, 2012, making landfall near Atlantic City, NJ, bringing hurricane force winds and coastal surges that devastated shore communities from North Carolina to New England. The storm was actually a combination of two systems, Hurricane Sandy and a classic Nor'easter. New Jersey and New York suffered the worst damage and casualties. In the US, at least 110 people were killed and thousands lost homes and possessions.
In Fanwood, there were no storm-related casualties. However, downed trees damaged a number of homes and power was out for the entire town in the beginning. Restoration for most people occured within five to seven days with several streets and individual homes not back for thirteen days. Lines at gas stations persisted for several days afterwards.
The Borough of Fanwood, through an emergency management team consisting of Mayor Colleen Mahr, Police Chief Richard Trigo, Fire Chief John Piccola, Rescue Squad Captain Tom Kranz, Public Works Director Clint Dicksen, Emergency Management Coordinator Howard Drewes, Borough Clerk Eleanor McGovernor, Council Liasion Kathy Mitchell and Adminstrative Assistant Dianne Howarth met on an ongoing basis to manage the effects of the storm and figure out how to communicate with residents in a town with no power, internet, television or cell phone service. The Borough Hall was staffed throughout the storm, including weekends. Numerous volunteers assisted with answering phones and delivering flyers. The Borough continued daily information updates utilizing its website (for those with internet access), email subscribers (for those with cellphone access), Union County First Alert texts and reverse 911 calls to Fanwood homes. On three occasions, flyers with the latest information were delivered door to door.
The Fanwood Memorial Library and Fanwood Rescue Squad, both of which have natural gas-powered generators, became hubs of social activity, warming, device charging and communications. Chelsea Senior Living also became a warming station.
PSE&G faced what was arguably its greatest challenge ever, in terms of the number of damaged lines and infrastructure. Extensive damage to a switching station at Sewaren, Woodbridge Township, contributed to the delay in restoring power to everyone. Power was restored to a few homes after the first day. Many more homes had power restored after about five days. Several streets and some individual homes went thirteen days without electricity.
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by Dan Weiss, Library Director
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the Fanwood Memorial Library was a beacon of light for residents of Fanwood and nearby communities. Despite its limited space and somewhat antiquated infrastructure, the library was a safe haven for well over 5,000 people from noon on Tuesday, October 30 through Tuesday, November 6. The natural gas powered generator and functioning link to the internet allowed people to stay warm, get online and charge their phones and other devices from the many power strips strung off of every one of the library's small number of outlets.
Folks from Fanwood, Scotch Plains and other towns around the region and state came in to use the library for a vast array of essential needs ranging from applying to college, doing homework, working, applying for work, reviewing contracts, contacting FEMA, business and personal emails, staying in touch with family and neighbors and more.
Perhaps, most importantly, people were helping people - exchanging tips about how to cope during the storm, where to get gas, milk, ice - when power might be restored, helping each other with computer issues and problem solving, making sure those in need were looked after - neighbor to neighbor, Fanwood and beyond.
With constant updates from the Mayor Colleen Mahr and Police Chief Richard Trigo, residents were well informed about all storm related issues.
Mayor Mahr commented, "I cannot say how proud I am of our community. The library staffers have kept this place open since day one of Superstorm Sandy. It's incredible. We have staff and volunteers who have left their own damaged homes to come and help serve. It is times like this that show the mettle of a community and I couldn't be more proud of Fanwoodians."
Dan Weiss, Fanwood library director, echoed that special thanks are due to all of the dedicated, hardworking library staff and some volunteers who kept things running smoothly and effectively. Library pages Kevin Fleck and Josh Axlerod and volunteers Matt Fleck and Katherine DeMarco spent long hours helping people do everything from powering devices to getting internet access, troubleshooting computer issues and more. Extra special kudos go to staff member Nancy Kipping who, especially during the first few days following the hurricane, served long hours efficiently managing the crowds and keeping everything running smoothly. Thanks also go to Scotch Plains resident Colleen Gialanella who set up outside the library on Friday to warm residents by passing out free hot chocolate. Many other Fanwood Borough employees also gave tirelessly in a variety of capacities throughout the crisis to make sure residents had what they needed to be safe and comfortable.
Over the last week, under severe conditions, it was clear to see beyond the books, magazines and programs, the true enduring and essential value that the Fanwood Memorial Library provides to the community it serves.
NJ Assemblywoman Linda Stender of Fanwood administered the oath of office to Dan Levine, left, and Jack Molenaar, Fanwood's newest Councilmen. Holding the Bible for Councilman Levine was his wife, Miette, and holding the flag for Councilman Molenaar was his wife, Joanna. More photos on Facebook
Mayor Colleen Mahr joined mayors from 74 other New Jersey municipalities and other local and elected leaders in endorsing what they called "common sense gun reforms" at an event in Cranford on January 14th, 2013. The Mayors are part of a coalition called Mayors Against Illegal Guns to advocate for the prevention of gun violence. Joining Mayor Mahr was Fanwood Police Chief Richard Trigo, Scotch Plains Mayor Kevin Glover, Assemblywoman Linda Stender and Mayors from communities around New Jersey.