Snow Melt Plus Rain Cause Stony Brook Flood on Friday

January 23, 1995 (~estimated)

Snow Melt Plus Rain Cause Stony Brook Flood on Friday

At first glance, it looks like there are dozens of pieces of paper hanging from the trees along Stony Brook where Mercer Road crosses it in Prince-ton Township. But the flat white objects don’t flutter; they just hang there.

A closer examination reveals that they are actually little ice floes frozen to the tree branches, marking the high water mark from last Friday’s Stony Brook flood.

Warm weather and a heavy rain combined to melt most of the snow left over from the “Blizzard of ’96” on Friday afternoon, and local motorists and homeowners suffered for it.

The excess of water sent normally placid Stony Brook F wring over its banks. Township police rushed to close in-inundated Mercer and Quaker roads at approximately 3 p.m., but were too late to stop over half a dozen cars, vans, and ether vehicles from getting suck.

Many motorists found themselves stranded. Unable to drive their flooded cars, and afraid to walk through the fast, cold, and rapidly rising water, they waited in the cold for help to arrive.

The Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad was called to Quaker Road where a school bus and a minivan were trapped by the rising water. The bus carried only the driver, and the van held two adults and three children, making a total of six people in need of rescue.

Assistant Chief Whip Burks reported that the Rescue Squad set up its equipment near the intersection of Mercer and Quaker roads, and prepared the unit’s 16-foot inflatable raft.

With two squad members aboard, the raft was launched toward the stranded cars. The boat’s outboard motor was pushing the craft along when the first of a series of unexpected mishaps took place.

Soon after it was launched, the bottom of the rubber boat was torn by a submerged roadway reflector sign.

“On the way out, it was damaged,” said Mr. Burks. We were still able to pick the people up, but the current was too strong for the motor, and we couldn’t get them back to the starting point at Mercer Road.”

The two squad members in the boat decided to turn toward relatively dry land in the cornfield south of the road. They were able to land the boat safely, but were still far from the waiting rescue trucks.

At that point, another squad member tried to reach the shivering party in a rescue utility vehicle. The modified Chevy Blazer, said Mr. Burks, got caught in the current and was pushed into a ditch by the side of the road. The driver waded through the current to join the party with the disabled boat.

With all other options exhausted, the rescue workers took the six victims out by foot. Carrying the children in their arms, the adults in the party found a path through the fields that took them behind the Quaker Meeting House and safely back to the rescue vehicles waiting at Mercer Road.

No serious injuries resulted from the incident, but damage to equipment may hurt the Rescue Squad’s bank book. The stranded utility vehicle was under water for several hours before it could be towed to a garage.

A financial estimate of damage to the truck and the rubber raft was not available at press time. According to Mr. Burks, the squad buys all of its equipment without municipal assistance.

Roads Closed

Township Police Captain Peter J. Savalli reported that his officers closed several roads at different times from Friday evening to Saturday morning. The roads mentioned by Captain Savalli were Mercer, Quaker, River, and Ridgeview. Numerous other side streets were also made impassable by flooding, he said.

Long after roads had been closed, he said, some motorists continued to try to get through. At 7 p.m. on Friday, Police had to call rescue workers to pluck a Pennsylvania man from his stranded car.

30-year-old Charles Peters, of Newtown, saw his 1988 Jeep founder in four feet of water on Quaker Road near Hale Drive. He sat on the roof of the car until rescue workers in a boat were able to reach him, Captain Savalli said.

Trouble on the roads was not limited to stranded cars. “We had a lot of weather-related accidents, “said the captain, “but nothing really serious.”

All of the roads were re-opened by late Saturday morning. Some were free of water by Friday night, but police waited to re-open them so that road crews could check for ice floes and potholes by daylight.

Princeton Borough experienced little in the way of roadway flooding, except for a rather deep pool on Route 206, just south of the Nassau Street light.

Captain Peter Hanley of the Borough Police reported that the six-to-eight inches of water collecting in the road was the result of a broken catch basin, and cleared as soon as the rain stopped falling. The catch basin was broken prior to the storm, he said.

– Rob Garver

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