Tropical Storm Ida Information Hub
MAYOR'S UPDATE: SEPTEMBER 14
With storm debris pick up nearly complete, I’d like to take a moment to recognize the incredible job that Public Works has done over the past week. This is the first time that the DPW has ever conducted a Town-wide bulky waste pick up, and it was a big lift on top of their ongoing other responsibilities -- including field preparation and maintenance, beautifying the 9/11 memorial for our annual ceremony, patching roadways, and responding to residents’ requests. Please give them a shout out next time you see a DPW employee -- they were incredible.
And while we did not experience the catastrophic devastation we witnessed in other communities, we do have a number of residents with substantial property damage and financial and emotional losses. I want to remind everyone that Union County is now included in the FEMA Major Disaster Declaration, and residents with losses can apply for assistance at disasterassistance.gov, and can call 1-800-621-3362 for application assistance.
We continue to receive inquiries about infrastructure improvements following the impact of Ida. For some context, municipal stormwater systems are designed to control stormwater for the average types of storm events municipalities might reasonably endure.
Overall, our region received 7.3 inches of rainfall, or 164% of an entire average month, in just over 24 hours. Over four inches of rain fell in just two hours between 7:00 and 9:00 PM on September 1. The rainfall from Ida also came on top of the already saturated ground from a July that was 173% of the average and an August that was 145% of the average rainfall.
Stormwater systems were simply overrun, not only in Westfield but around the state, with many towns suffering catastrophic losses. While this storm is far beyond what the average municipal drainage system is expected to handle, we have to act with urgency to fortify our infrastructure to manage the severity of storms that are happening more frequently. Westfield has had ongoing pockets of flooding that we’ve been attempting to address on a localized basis, but Ida has made it clear that we need to take a more holistic, strategic approach to address our stormwater issues for the short and long term.
Tonight I’m announcing the formation of the Westfield Infrastructure Resiliency Committee (WIRC), which will be tasked with assessing our current Town-wide stormwater infrastructure and its capacity to handle these severe weather events in the future, in addition to making short and long-term recommendations for how best to fortify it, as well recommendations for ensuring we are proactively thinking about climate resiliency in everything we do going forward.
It will be a significant undertaking, and will take all contributing factors into considerations such as engineering and current zoning and construction practices, future development, and input from public works and finance, who will all be represented on WIRC.
This Council will be co-chaired by Finance Committee Chair Linda Habgood and Public Works Committee Chair David Contract, and will also include:
- Jim Gildea, Town Administrator
- Greg O’Neil, Director of Public Works
- Don Sammet, Town Planner
- Dave Battaglia, Town Engineer
- Frank Vuoso, Construction Official
We will also be seeking resident volunteers to fill several additional seats -- specifically those who have a unique perspective from personal flooding experience or professional experience in the areas of flood mitigation or related zoning or construction expertise. More details about how to apply will be available shortly.
-- Mayor Shelley Brindle