Flood Camera Makes Debut in Sea Isle

Posted on Saturday, May 04th

If an episode of “Game of Thrones” isn’t on or if the movie listings stink, Sea Isle City residents might consider taking a peek at a new webcam for their viewing pleasure.

While the video is hardly scintillating on a calm, sunny day, the webcam is expected to serve as a valuable tool when storms and flooding threaten the low-lying barrier island.

The so-called “flood camera” is trained on the intersection of 40th Street and Central Avenue, one of the areas often swamped with stormwater. Neil Byrne, Sea Isle’s floodplain manager and construction officer, has called 40th and Central a “barometer” for flooding in the rest of town.

“That’s a very flood-prone area and one of the first areas that does get water,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer pointed out.

Serving as an early warning system for flooding, the webcam will help residents and motorists to avoid stormwater as they travel around town, Custer said.

“As the old saying goes, a picture tells a thousand tales. It will allow people to see flooding before they go out and about,” she said in an interview Friday.

“It’s one way to capture people’s attention and make them aware, by visually seeing the street, if there’s any flooding,” Custer added.

The New Jersey Coastal Coalition, in partnership with the city, installed the flood camera on Sea Isle’s Public Works building at 40th and Central. It will livestream images on a 24-hour basis at https://www.njcoastalcoalition.com/sea-isle-city-web-cam.

The camera was activated recently, allowing residents to keep an eye on things in real time. Sea Isle officials plan to hold a news conference in the near future to announce more details about the webcam to the public.

“It’s all still very, very new. I’m not sure people know about it,” Custer said. “We need to publicize it.”

The New Jersey Coastal Coalition, a nonprofit group of 22 communities in Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland, Middlesex and Ocean counties that joined together in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, is looking for new ways to protect homeowners from flooding.

The livestream video in Sea Isle is part of a pilot program that may eventually include flood cameras in other coastal towns in Atlantic, Cape May and Ocean counties that are members of the coalition.

The camera in Sea Isle was funded by a $5,000 donation to the coastal coalition from OceanFirst Bank. Tom Quirk, the coalition’s executive director, indicated in an earlier interview that he plans to pursue other private and public grants to secure funding for cameras in other communities.

Sea Isle was selected as the location for the first flood camera because of its strong support for the coastal coalition over the years, Quirk said.

The webcam is the latest innovation in Sea Isle’s broad flood-mitigation strategy, which includes plans for new pumping stations, drainage improvements and even rock wall-like berms to block stormwater flowing out of the back bays.

“Sea Isle takes flooding and floodplain management very seriously,” Custer said. “This is one of the pieces of the puzzle.”In March, the city installed 78 flashing road signs around town as part of an early warning system for flooding. The $226,000 warning system includes sensors that detect rising floodwaters and activate the yellow flashing signs. It is designed to prevent motorists from straying into flooded areas.

In its never-ending fight against flooding, Sea Isle has also replenished its beaches, fortified its dunes, upgraded its drainage systems and rebuilt its roads over the years.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which oversees the national flood insurance program, boosted Sea Isle’s community rating from Class 5 to Class 3 in 2018. By moving up the ladder two steps, it means that Sea Isle property owners are eligible for a 35 percent discount on their flood insurance policies. Previously, they had received a 25 percent discount.

Mayor Leonard Desiderio said Sea Isle is the only municipality in New Jersey designated by FEMA as a Class 3 community. Only a handful of cities and counties across the nation are considered Class 3 or higher.

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