The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

The student newspaper of Bucks County Community College

The Centurion

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Disaster Relief and Recovery After Flooding in Lambertville

Photo courtesy of Professor Charlie Groth

Also see: Bucks Professor Rebuilds her Lambertville Home After Worst Flash Flood in Town’s History

The City of Lambertville has been rebuilding the widespread devastation left after Sept. 1, 2021, when Hurricane Ida, a Category Four hurricane, caused the worst flash flood in the city’s history. Severe rainfall caused the creeks that flow at both ends of the city to swell and flood homes and businesses leaving many residents displaced and in need of assistance.

For over a year, the City of Lambertville, Hunterdon County and the State of New Jersey have worked together in addressing one of the worst natural disasters that its community has ever faced. In response to the flood, local government coordinated its efforts with voluntary agencies to assist individuals and families in need.

According to a press release, former Mayor of Lambertville, Mayor Julia Fahl, told Lambertville residents “more than 20 government and nonprofit entities are coming into our community to ensure that any questions residents have are answered and that resources are available to address all resident needs, from housing, to insurance, to FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency), to mental health and trauma recovery.”

In the days following the historic flood, the devastated city came together in an effort to help those whose homes and businesses were damaged or destroyed. With support from the South Hunterdon Regional School District and the City of Lambertville, the American Red Cross had set up a shelter at the South Hunterdon Regional High School. This shelter offered a safe place to sleep, and meals, snacks, water, and health services to anyone in need.

The city mobilized volunteers to separate debris in the days following the flood, and deployed dumpsters throughout the city. Hunterdon County Disaster Response Crisis Counselors became available. The Lambertville Construction Office hosted a recovery and rebuilding informational session and a 24-hour housing helpline through the Hunterdon County Division of Social Services became available.

Lambertville also hosted a Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) to provide residents and business owners with an easy one-stop access to a range of resources to help them recover from the flood, regardless of the amount or type of damage they suffered. The streets became a festival of federal, state, county, and charity flood relief resources and services as residents picked up the pieces. If your car was disabled, a volunteer or Lambertville Police officer would drive you to the center.

The City of Lambertville, in collaboration with the American Red Cross New Jersey Region and several governmental and nonprofit partners, like FEMA, were available at the resource center. Federal disaster relief agencies like FEMA and voluntary agencies provided short-term and long-term help for victims. Food, water, healthcare, shelter, and financial assistance were available for those affected by the natural disaster.

Lambertville City Clerk & Registrar, Cindy Ege, shared how large the relief effort has been. Ege says over “400 homes were damaged at different severity levels, two completely destroyed.” Ege also shared how the city of Lambertville assisted an apartment complex that was destroyed, leaving 20 families with rehousing needs.

Lambertville required extensive repair and rebuilding, and the disruption and destruction to the community was so great that some residents relocated. The to-do list was long, houses were unhabitable, residents were in temporary shelters, water and power needed to be restored, and mitigation was needed.

Bucks Language and Literature Professor Charlie Groth, a Lambertville resident, whose home was flooded, says the “most difficult part of the process was coordinated paperwork and finances between different agencies.” Groth was grateful however, that FEMA and other agencies were available to assist her in the recovery process.

Ege says the city hopes to return to pre-storm conditions by the end of this year, after the repair of “$4 million worth of damages to infrastructure.” Though many people found new housing outside of Lambertville, the city “continues to help residents with reconstruction and the permits needed to rebuild and recover.”

Lambertville was recognized as a significant site within New Jersey’s official disaster declaration, making it eligible for federal funding and support to aid in the rebuild. According to FEMA, local governments like Hunterdon County are the first line of defense against emergencies and disasters and are primarily responsible for managing the response to and recovery from those events.

Lambertville has made Hurricane Ida updates and information available on the city’s website including food, legal, social services, health, housing, financial, construction, and other assistance resources. Fahl estimated nearly every building in the city had at least some sort of water damage, with half of residents experiencing severe flooding in their basements.

According to a press release, Fahl also said at least 55 families in the city were displaced by the storm, most of whom are low and moderate-income residents. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, people of low socioeconomic status are more likely to live in homes that are vulnerable to disasters, and to have their homes damaged or destroyed in the disaster.

Ege says resources are always available. Even after over a year of response to the nearly 11 inches of severe rain, the City of Lambertville continues to answer the call of residents in need relief and support from the flooding.