In an effort to call attention to recovery and resiliency achievements in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) commended Rumson Borough officials for their successful development and deployment of computer software designed to provide 48 hours advance of storm warnings to areas most likely to be affected by flooding. The DCA’s Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant Program funded the development of the software.
Rumson Borough is the first Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant recipient to successfully utilize Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software for storm resiliency planning. The GIS software amassed voluminous data that officials used to identify exactly where flooding would occur from Hurricane Joaquin in October 2015 and Winter Storm Jonas in January 2016.
Borough officials knew which specific houses would have needed to be evacuated; which sanitary sewer pump stations had the potential to be flooded or lose power, prompting the need for the borough’s standby generators; where to position large storm doors that deflect water flows on three sides of the borough to protect critical facilities; and where officials and residents could safely park their vehicles. Fortunately, no one in the borough had to be evacuated, but officials were prepared.
“Aside from helping to rebuild storm-damaged homes and businesses, one of the goals of the state’s Sandy recovery effort is to help towns and their residents protect against damage from future storms,” said DCA Commissioner Charles A. Richman, whose department administers many of the state’s Sandy recovery programs, including the Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grants. “The results from the first GIS planning project in Rumson is another step forward in achieving that goal.”
Rumson’s GIS software integrates information about roads, storm water drains, and sewer systems, among other things, from approximately 30 different databanks. Other data includes maps of where the surge from Superstorm Sandy and previous storms occurred, as well as Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that predict where water will go on land based on Category 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 level storms. Additionally, the location of building structures that are elevated and their height are incorporated.
“We had a better understanding of what percentage of our town faced a potential impact by the storms,” said Thomas S. Rogers, Rumson Municipal Administrator. “We also could see which borough assets would be impacted, such as public works and pump stations. We were better prepared for what the storms would do and to react in a more calm, organized, and speedy fashion. The grant funding plus planning equaled success. We couldn’t have afforded to do the GIS mapping and pull the data and maps together without the Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant.”
The Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant Program supports municipalities and counties that sustained damage from Superstorm Sandy in developing and executing comprehensive long-range plans designed to help them become more resilient in the event of future severe weather events. DCA awarded Rumson Borough $294,000 in Post-Sandy Planning Grants, of which the borough used $50,000 to develop the GIS software.
In the last 15 years, planners have used GIS to develop municipal master, flood, and capital improvement plans. Using the cloud, the GIS computer modeling can assemble stored maps and databases, creating a vehicle where planning, emergency management, and public works professionals can work together to prepare a response in advance of an approaching storm.
“The Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grant Program is one of the most significant planning grant programs in the State of New Jersey,” said Stanley Slachetka of T&M Associates, the consultants who developed the GIS model for Rumson. “If you plan well, the monetary losses from a storm will be significantly less.”
For more information on Post-Sandy Planning Assistance Grants, visit www.nj.gov/dca/services/lps/pspag.html.