Floods Wash Out Atlantic Highlands Streets, Trails

August 18, 2018
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Steps descending from a backyard along the Henry Hudson Trail, west of Hilton Road, were destroyed after a mudslide washed away parts of the slope there Aug. 7.

By Jay Cook |

ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS – An intense thunderstorm rolled through the Two River area last week and destroyed businesses, ruined borough infrastructure and even caused a pair of mudslides along a beloved outdoor walking trail.

Borough administrator Adam Hubeny said the storm was unprecedented for Atlantic Highlands. About 5 inches of rain came down in a 40-minute torrential downpour and 6.5 overall inches of rain fell over a 2-hour span, he estimated.

“It was unique,” said Hubeny. “This is something that has not been seen in decades here. Sandy did not have this kind of rain, even Hurricane Irene. We had rain, but not this kind of rain.”

Borough resident and small business owner Richard Colangelo said the evening deluges destroyed the offices for his mortgage brokerage business, located at the Atlantic Highlands/Middletown border west of Avenue D.

About 18 inches of mud and vegetation from a mudslide landed on the Henry Hudson Trail’s Bayshore Trail during the rainstorm.

About 2 to 3 feet of water ran through his office and destroyed the interior, he said. A video he posted on social media the morning after the rains showed about a half dozen filled black garbage bags. Mud deposits and some water still remained.

“I wouldn’t call it scary, but I was definitely amazed,” said Colangelo, who’s currently working from home until he finds a new office.

Businesses along Atlantic Highlands’ hub on First Avenue also weren’t spared. TeaScapes owner Kathleen Edinger announced her business would be closed “until further notice” after the rainstorm. Edinger declined further comment to The Two River Times as she waits for insurance claims to be processed.

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The rainstorm also took a toll on numerous pieces on infrastructure around town. Route 36 by the King James Court Condominiums severely flooded and six cars were disabled and destroyed in the water, Hubeny said. Roads and bridges at West Highland Avenue and Center Avenue were also flooded and closed throughout the night.

Homes going up into the hills in Atlantic Highlands weren’t spared from the 5-plus inches of rain that fell from a torrential downpour. This breach along Lawrie and Hilton roads almost reached this resident’s house.

Hubeny said there were three “major breaches” of curbing and asphalt berms along Ocean Boulevard, which is a county road, and four more breaches on the water side along Bayside Drive. A contractor was hired to remove a large downed tree and to “fix some disturbance of the roadway and some guide rail damage.”

But the downtown wasn’t the only area of town that flooded; the highest point on the Atlantic seaboard from Maine to Mexico even had water damage.

“We had people up by Mount Mitchill get water, whether in their basement or flooding their driveway, they had road wash come down from the road and into their driveway,” Hubeny said.

Almost no sections of Atlantic Highlands were spared, even the Bayshore Trail section of the Henry Hudson Trail. East Lincoln resident Richard Salls took his morning stroll down to the trail Wednesday morning and saw a mess. Soil from the cliff slopes alongside the trail gave out onto the Henry Hudson Trail.

“I’m used to seeing flooding, but this is something different,” Salls said. “Yes, it was an awful lot of rain in a short amount of time, but the issue of groundwater and surface water runoff in this area seems to be quite problematic.”

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Monmouth County Park System assistant director Andrew Spears told The Two River Times there were a pair of “minor to moderate” mudslides near the Henry Hudson Springs, east of the Atlantic Highlands Municipal Harbor.

He estimated about 18 inches of mud and vegetation slid to the scenic walking and biking trail. Park system crews were on the scene Thursday for cleanup and the trail never closed, Spears said.

“It certainly didn’t stop any of the trail users who frequent that beautiful site,” he added.

Borough residents along the shores of Sandy Hook Bay are no stranger to these erosive slides. According to a 2017 report from the United States Geological Service, there are about 20 locations along the Henry Hudson Trail where earth monitoring equipment is set up. The report specifically detailed landslides and slump blocks, both of which are more severe than the minor mudslides that occurred late last week.

Heavy rains also rolled through Monmouth County Monday and Tuesday with washouts severely flooding areas of Brick. But the storm cell that blasted through Atlantic Highlands Aug. 7 certainly left its mark.

“You can’t fool with Mother Nature,” said Hubeny. “There isn’t anything anyone could have done to have prevented anything in regard to what happened.”

This article first appeared in the August 16 – 23, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.

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