Rebuilding Together – Harrison Strong

It’s been two weeks since the unprecedented tornado hit Harrison Township, comprehending what happened and the personal devastation is probably sinking in for the families most impacted.

To our Harrison Family,

It’s been two weeks since the unprecedented tornado hit Harrison Township, comprehending what happened and the personal devastation is probably sinking in for the families most impacted.

I suspect the first week or so was a blur. These families scrambled to assess the damage to their homes and additional losses, sought temporary shelter, addressed their immediate needs of clothing and other necessities, and coordinated with their insurance providers, while many prepared for the first day of school. Add in the emotional impact of experiencing this life-threatening trauma and we can only imagine what the first week must have been like for our neighbors that were impacted.

As the second week unfolded, most of the damaged properties were transformed into worksites, with neighbors, friends, family, strangers, and contractors supporting their “rebuilding” … all working together to clean-up and salvage what they could, while the families asked themselves “where do we go from here”?

This work continues and there is noticeable progress being made, but allow me to state the obvious: “rebuilding” is going to take time, especially for the 36 homes that have been “tagged” with an orange “unsafe structure” sticker by construction officials. This sticker means whatever is left of the structure needs to be demolished and rebuilt or in some cases demolition may not be required, but extensive reconstruction will be necessary.

As the weeks turn into months, those of us not physically impacted by this tornado will be preparing for the holidays, but these families will still be working through their “rebuilding” and many families will be living someplace other than “home”. There are dozens of others, who were fortunate to not have lost their homes, but were still severely affected and will be “rebuilding” as well.

Long after time fades the memory for those of us not directly impacted by the tornado, many families in our community will still be “rebuilding.” We must pledge to provide support and resources to our Harrison families, until they no longer need it. That’s what defines Harrison Strong.

Please find the below updates:

  • Be aware of possible price gouging in the area by private contractors. If you experience any such behavior, contact the Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office at 856-384-5500 or file a complaint directly with the NJ Department of Community Affairs
  • The FEMA-Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) opened on Monday in the Gloucester County Library, Mullica Hill Branch parking lot at 389 Wolfert Station Road. Hours of operation are Monday – Friday 7am – 7pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday 1pm – 5pm
  • Harrison Township has requested an extension of the NJ State Police over-night patrols which will remain in place from 7pm to 7am through Monday morning, 9/19/21. After that, the Harrison Township Police will institute two additional patrols overnight (in addition to the standard four per shift), specifically to monitor the impacted areas.
  • Gloucester County Emergency Management and FEMA representatives met with the Mayors & Municipal OEM representatives from the five impacted municipalities in the Harrison Township Municipal Building this past Monday morning. The roll out of FEMA’s disaster recovery plan was discussed, including their mobile outreach to residents who do not initiate a claim on their own.
  • We are working with Gloucester County and NJDEP regarding streams and waterways, in pursuit of getting some of the tree clean-up to fall under their jurisdiction. NJDEP toured the affected areas and are going to evaluate State vs County clean-up strategies.
  • Gloucester County has played a pivotal role in the tree and debris removal process, and they are continuing to work with us on that front.

I know we all thank God, there was no loss of human life or major injuries in Harrison Township. This miracle is almost hard to believe, as one views the devastated areas.

Almost as miraculous is the incredible outpouring of support from our community. As this tragedy unfolded strangers began providing help to those impacted by the storm. The number of volunteers ultimately rose into the hundreds. From the onset, the physical donations came pouring in at a rate that was overwhelming, exceeding the storage capacity at Clearview. There has been a flow of monetary donations coming from everywhere and there are multiple individual GoFundMe accounts that family, friends, and local organizations set up for impacted residents. An avalanche of Gift Cards are being donated, many coming in from an initiative by the Harrison Township Elementary School. Most of which ended up with the Rotary of Mullica Hill, as they have stepped up in a huge way to help in the field (with crews cutting up trees) and to administer and distribute the Gift Cards totaling in the $30,000 range.

The Rotary of Mullica Hill continues its efforts by working with local business owners to sponsor a fundraising event, the Together We Rebuild event that will benefit those who lost their homes. The event is scheduled for Sunday, October 17th (no Eagles game) from 12 – 4pm in Naples parking lot with food, beer, and entertainment. You can find more details and tickets here.

The response from the community has been incredible and it’s impossible to express the impact and calming atmosphere your response has brought to a tragic and chaotic situation. Ultimately, it is this love, support, and sense of community that is the reason we all love living here as much as we do.

Please feel free to contact me or any of your committee members for any reason. The community, township leadership, and staff are committed to their role in providing all we can to assist those in need.

Now, more than ever, we must be Harrison Strong!

Together for Harrison Township,
Lou Manzo
Your Mayor