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Westwood and Hillsdale Suffer Major Flooding During Friday Nights Storm

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the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Westwood NJ, Westwood Mayor Ray Arroyo fills us in on Fridays flooding and Storm damage in Westwood and Hillsdale .

“Once again, a “no name” storm caused local flooding in the Westwood Hillsdale area.
From later Friday evening into late Saturday afternoon, the total accumulation of intermittent, sometimes heavy, rainfall was 2.8 inches.
Westwood OEM was notified at 2:22 AM Saturday morning that “the Reservoir will spill over in approximately one hour.” OEM had received no other notifications, neither from weather sources nor its Bergen County counterparts, regarding potential flooding.
Our OEM Director began to monitor the brook levels and confer with Hillsdale OEM as the day and events progressed.
Several residents had reached out to me around 3 PM on Saturday afternoon advising that the Pascack Brook had breeched the banks. They noted that Hillsdale had already sent out Flood Stage warnings, but Westwood had not. While both towns share this problem, the timing of flood impacts is somewhat different. Hillsdale, topographically, sits at a lower elevation than Westwood. Consequently, Hillsdale OEM will often initiate, and escalate, its flood stage/evacuation warnings before Westwood initiates the same. Both agencies observe the progression of events in their respective flood prone areas.
Westwood OEM sent out a warning to Flood Zone #1 at 3:30 PM. An advisory was sent out to Flood Zone # 2 at approximately 3:50 PM . Both were based upon Westwood OEM’s field observations, weather monitoring, and USGS data. The water began receding between 7:45 and 8:00 PM. Today we will have a better idea of just how many home and business interiors were impacted by this event.
In addition to the water company’s (Veolia) representative, Westwood residents, OEM staff, our Borough Administrator and my counterpart in Hillsdale, Mayor Ruocco, I’d also contacted Senator Schepisi to again press for the only immediate relief measure that can mitigate our local flooding problem – which requires legislative intervention.
Saturday’s event was a clear demonstration of how the water level in the Woodcliff Lake reservoir can determine whether we flood or not. This is the first storm we have weathered in 2022 with the reservoir’s level raised to summer level. With the gates at 95 ft, the water level was at 94 feet during the days prior to Friday/Saturday’s rain event. Late Friday night, before the 2:30 AM alert from Veolia, there was only 1 inch of freeboard (headroom) in the reservoir before spilling over. Any further rainfall, or runoff from the northern parts of the overdeveloped drainage basin (in NY State) would quickly overwhelm that shallow margin. And that’s exactly what happened. And why we flooded.
The Borough Clerk, just last week, launched a Flood Page on the Borough’s website. It links to the archived correspondence between the Borough, the DEP and the Water Company requesting a year-round maximum level of 91 feet. On April 5th, the Westwood Governing Body adopted Resolution 22-105 supporting Senator Schepisi’s proposed Senate bill, S- 790 Flood Control Measures. This bill would require the state’s water management facilities to include flood mitigation protocols in their standard operating procedures. Such measures could compel pre-storm release of maxed out holding vessels, which is where the Woodcliff Lake Reservoir was on Friday night.
On March 30, I requested the DEP conduct an analysis comparing the accuracy of pre-storm rainfall predictions with actual rainfall, looking back over several years. The idea was to gauge how much of the water asset might have been lost had pre-release followed these predictions. And then compare those costs with the cost of property damage, Emergency Service costs, increased flood insurance premiums etc., generated by the standard operating procedure of holding the asset and accepting the resultant flooding. It seemed to me, if the DEP was instituting policies based upon climate change models anticipating more frequent and more severe rain events, that some significant part of the water inventory, let go in a pre-storm release would presumably be replenished. Such a study might prove it more cost effective to take some sustainable financial loss on the water asset than continue pay out damages and incur local service costs . On April 29 I received an answer declining my request.
The dollars and cents of this cannot come close to capturing the mental trauma experienced by our flood residents. We on the Governing Body know that. We will continue to make sure your elected officials up the chain, the only ones who can mitigate your ongoing suffering, know that as well. “
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3 thoughts on “Westwood and Hillsdale Suffer Major Flooding During Friday Nights Storm

  1. Schepisi was just in Venice Italy so she can tell you all about flooding.

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  2. They only care about money flooding into their campaign chests.

  3. Lived here 45 years. Flooding, same old, same old.

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