Township responds to Code Blue on holiday weekend

IRVINGTON, NJ — Essex County officials issued a “code blue” alert on Friday, Feb. 12, in response to the blast of air that plunged the temperature into the low double-digits for the Presidents Day weekend.
Township and county officials said the code blue was in effect from 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 12, until 9 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, and that the alert is issued when temperatures drop below freezing and conditions pose a threat to individuals who are homeless or medically fragile.

Whenever that happens, they said “a network of agencies throughout New Jersey helps people obtain shelter, food and clothing.” That includes opening up special warming centers and making sure the people who need them have access to them.

Information about the warming centers can be found online at Irvington is not included on that list, but there are a number located across the border in Newark and one at 168 Park St. in East Orange.

“We’re in constant contact with the county; that does a great job in galvanizing everything and sending things out to the municipalities,” said Mayor Tony Vauss on Tuesday, Feb. 16. “I was down there during the big snowstorm few years ago and I’ve seen how they operate. Locally, we have our internal things in place, but I always say the more the merrier.”

Vauss said that’s especially the case when it comes to handling historic, record-setting blizzards such as the one that dumped 3 feet of snow on Irvington on Saturday, Jan. 22. At the time, he gave the township Department of Public Works and the rest of Irvington’s newly consolidated emergency management structure a “B” in terms of how well he believed they handled the situation.

Afterward, Vauss immediately went out and purchased four new Bobcat snow plows to make sure Irvington would be ready to handle the next snowstorm. Sure enough, it snowed again during the recent holiday weekend.

Although the snowfall wasn’t as heavy and the total accumulation was nowhere near what came down three weeks earlier, Vauss said it was good to know Irvington was prepared, just in case things had been worse.

“This is why you try to be more prepared,” said Vauss. “You assess yourself and then work to get better. When I saw the performance of those Bobcats, I was like, ‘whoa,’ because we have streets in Irvington unlike any of the other communities that surround us. When it snows, we have cars parked on both sides of streets that are so narrow that we can’t send the big snow plows down them.”

The new Bobcat plows solved that problem, said Vauss on Monday, Feb. 1, at a press conference where the snowplows were unveiled. Even though it turned out they weren’t needed to handle the couple of inches of snow that fell on Monday, Feb. 15, officials said it was good to have them in reserve, “just in case.”

“When you have 3 feet of snow, those pickup trucks can’t pick up snow,” said Vauss. “I thought it was important to have the salt trucks out, so that, when people go out this morning, we could have plows come. We did get the plows out,
but it was after we did a massive salting.”