By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor
The aftermath of severe storms and damaging winds July 22 lingered several days, with just over 7,000 customers still without power at press time July 25. A significant portion of the more than 325,000 affected reside within the Trenton Diocese.
Included in that number were the parishes of St. Rose of Lima and St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, both Freehold; attempts to reach the parishes July 24 were still met with busy signals or no signal at all. More than 22 percent of Upper Freehold Township residents remained without power the morning of July 25, as well as 40 percent in North Hanover Township. Other hard-hit areas of the Diocese included the townships of Colts Neck, Burlington, Howell, Manalapan, Millstone, Plumstead and Wall.
The storms, according to Rutgers University-based state climatologist David Robinson, were potentially the worst since Superstorm Sandy. Even though the storms were short-lived and quick moving, Robinson said that 11 of the state’s 60 wind gauges registered gust speeds between 50 and 59 miles per hour; another nine registered gusts over 40.
The power outage caused the July 24 diocesan Senior Spirituality Day, slated for the Co-Cathedral, to be relocated to the campus of St. Dominic Parish, Brick.
“The power went out Monday evening [around] 6 p.m. because a tree came down and took power lines with it,” said Jennifer Schlameuss-Perry, pastoral associate. “The priests have a generator, so they stayed put – but we could not work because [of the outage, and] we couldn’t get past the tree blocking our entrances.”
As of press time, the power was restored to the Co-Cathedral property, but the parish offices were being investigated by firefighters for an unexplained smell. Schlameuss-Perry noted that the parish did not have the ability to receive phone calls for three days from anyone seeking assistance, but “nothing came through on Facebook or email.”
Some social service agencies did experience an increase in clientele or requests for assistance as a result of the storm.
Seeds of Service, Brick, received several requests for generators, which they did not have on hand to give. They referred one family to Catholic Charities because a paraplegic member was in a dire situation and in need of a generator.
Christie Winters, founding director, said that the center has seen an influx of people in need of food because it has spoiled. “That can be hard for families who live paycheck to paycheck, and just went grocery shopping before the storm,” she explained.
Clients of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, were also affected by the storm.
Arnold Valentin Jr., CCDOT service area director for community services shared, “As of [press time], the 28 apartments at Linkages [CCDOT’s emergency transitional housing program for families] are still without power. The main office [on North Warren Street, Trenton] is being powered by county generators. The county estimates power will hopefully restored by this weekend.”
Valentin continued that the Ocean Community Services office in Lakewood also was impacted by the recent heat wave. “It took a toll on the air conditioning system,” he said, “which required more than $3,000 in repairs, and impacted services here.”
In spite of the widespread destruction of trees and power lines, most Catholic buildings and social service agencies in the Diocese did not sustain serious damage.
“Everything’s OK, nothing abnormal yet,” said Wayne Boylan, president of the St. Vincent de Paul conference in St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood. “There are some outages still, but not at the church. We had a new air conditioner installed today [at the food pantry], but the old one held up during the storm. I think we came out of it very well.”
“We only lost a couple of trees, but we didn’t lose power,” said Maureen Cisek, secretary for St. William the Abbot Parish, Howell. “One street where one of our deacons lives still has no power … but other than that, I don’t think any outages [remain].”
In Mary, Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, power went out in both St. Mary Church and the parish office on Monday night when the storm began, said parish secretary Cathy Alphonse.
“The power came back on Tuesday night; the only thing that is still down is our internet connection,” she said. “We did have a branch fall down in front of the parish center, but [it didn’t cause] damage. Some shingles flew off the roof of the school, and they’re currently assessing that damage.”
The parish did have to reschedule a Tuesday funeral for a day later “because we had no lighting, no A/C, no organ or microphones,” Alphonse explained.
St. Thomas More Parish, Manalapan, lost power Monday night as well. Power came back on Tuesday evening, according to Eileen Weber, parish secretary. However, “No one has called, and there was no damage to the church,” she said. “The rectory lost the food in their fridge, and the Englishtown church [Our Lady of Mercy Church] had morning Mass, [in spite of] no power to the organ.”
Cheryl Wegner, secretary in St. Veronica Parish, Howell, said the church lost power for about 24 hours, as did most of the area residents. While no one was present in the parish office during that time, the office is currently open, and “we’re here to help,” she said.