Thursday, December 7, 2023

OEM: We Didn’t Get Hit by the Storm That Badly

Christopher South
Severe scarfing at the beach entrance at 15th Avenue in North Wildwood is evident, Sept. 27, following a weekend storm.

By Christopher South

RIO GRANDE – This past weekend’s storm didn’t quite live up to the hype, a Cape May County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) official said Sept. 25.

“I didn’t see where we got it that bad,” Marty Pagliughi, OEM’s coordinator, said. “Over 10 to 12 hours we got a little over 2.5 inches. They were forecasting 3 to 4.”

In terms of flooding, Pagliughi said he spoke to municipal officials and they reported rather low-end, moderate flooding.

“We’ve been getting half a dozen of these for years,” he said.

Pagliughi said one of the biggest problems was sending out calls to second homeowners because many were not aware of potential road flooding. High tide started around 3:30 p.m., and most of the bayfront roads saw some flooding. OEM was trying to warn homeowners to move cars to higher ground.

Pagliughi said that at the height of the storm, between 4 and 8 p.m., Sept. 23, about 1,800 electrical customers lost power; it was restored to all but about 500 people by later that evening. There were also some reports of streetlights out due to the storm, he said.

He said there also were reports of trees being uprooted and of broken branches, but nothing that constituted an emergency or required clearing of roads.

There were reports of minor beach erosion in most places, with the exception of North Wildwood, which usually takes the brunt of significant coastal storms.

“Most of the towns had a foot to a foot and a half at the high-water mark,” Pagliughi said.

Committeeman Curtis Corson said at the Sept. 25 Upper Township Committee meeting that it was good that the fill project at Strathmere beaches had not begun yet.

North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello said the city’s beaches did take a hit, particularly in the area of 13th to 16th avenues. A proposed project at a city facility in the area has been a matter of dispute between North Wildwood and the state Department of Environmental Protection. The city’s beach patrol headquarters is at 15th Avenue, and the city has been attempting to construct a bulkhead in front of the building. So far, the DEP has not approved such a measure.

The coastal towns are going to be dealing with rain, wind and coastal flooding for much of the week. Pagliughi said the same system, Tropical Storm Ophelia, that has been causing minor problems in the area is staying off the coast.

“We are at the highest point of natural tides, and we have moderate flooding today,” he said.

Sarah Johnson, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Philadelphia/Mt. Holly station, said the post-tropical system has “pretty much dissipated” at this point.

“What we have is an upper-level, low-pressure system approaching our area from the west. This will cause the formation of a new low-pressure area and stay off the coast,” Johnson said.

This new system, rather than the remnants of the tropical storm, will be the driver for offshore winds, which will be responsible for some coastal flooding. Johnson said that the natural tide pattern would come into play.

“Friday is the full moon, when will have the highest astronomical tide,” she said.

Johnson said this sort of weather is to be expected going into the shoulder season, when the area will experience low-pressure systems and upper-level systems.

“It’s not uncommon to be having these various rounds of frontal systems showing up,” she said. “What might be uncommon is to have the remnants of Ophelia hanging around. We’ve already had four days of these cloudy conditions, which is somewhat unusual.”

Johnson said there would be some improvement before the next round of stormy conditions begins.

Pagliughi said Cape May County has been fairly lucky over the years, from Hurricane Irene on, including Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall north of Atlantic City.

“Who would have guessed Sandy would have made that turn? We’ve been lucky,” he said.

Pagliughi said his office is just watching the tide today.

Contact the author, Christopher South, at or 609-886-8600, ext. 128.


Christopher South is a reporter for the Cape May County Herald.

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