No Wake Zone: Ship Bottom to Regulate Driving Through Flood Waters

May 02, 2018
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Ship Bottom officials are taking a stand against motorists who drive too quickly through flood waters, creating a wave that floods homes when they would otherwise be untouched.

At its meeting last month, the borough council introduced, by title only, Ordinance 2018-05, Motor Vehicles, flooding conditions on roadways. A second hearing on the ordinance is slated for May 22, the council’s next meeting.

“There is no reason to drive 30, 35 mph and send a wave into someone’s home,” Mayor William Huelsenbeck said earlier this week, adding the goal of the ordinance is education. “We’re not looking to fine people. We want it to stop.”

For years, borough residents, particularly those in the hardest-hit, flood-prone areas, have put up with motorists creating waves by traveling too quickly through the flood waters, according to the mayor.

What most motorists don’t realize is that driving fast through flood waters only increases the likelihood of the vehicle sucking water up into the engine. Taking water into the engine can destroy the car. It’s a situation borough police saw a lot during the March nor’easters, creating just the right conditions for cars to be washed out and drivers needing to be rescued by local police.

But even before the rash of March storms that created nearly a week of flooding in the gateway community to Long Beach Island, residents had been complaining about an increase in the number of drivers plowing through flood waters, most they claim who don’t live on the Island. These residents live in one of the oldest, lowest and most flood-prone areas in the borough: 24th to 28th streets, Long Beach Boulevard and Central Avenue.

In March, resident Richard Cummins asked council members if they would consider closing the borough to non-Island residents. He said in recent years a large number of thrill-seekers storm the Island during a weather-related event looking for photo opportunities. It’s these people, he said, who tend to drive hastily through the flood waters.

“The police are aware,” Councilman Joe Valyo has said of the wakes being created by drivers. “Ship Bottom is unique. Everything flows through Ship Bottom. We may want to shut down, but it shuts down the whole Island. The north/south roads are county roads. We need county approval; they tell us what we can and can’t do.”

Huelsenbeck said the councilman, also emergency management coordinator for the borough, is looking for signage opportunities to help educate motorists. A trio of projects to help ease flood waters in the most troublesome areas will also help prevent motorists from traveling too quickly, the mayor said.

In what could be the first ordinance of its kind, the proposed measure is a take on a state law requiring the speed of every water vessel to be regulated. The law was put into place to ensure no danger or injury to people or property, either directly or by the effect of the wake. There are also several situations where state law dictates all boats reduce their speed to “slow speed/no wake” when passing.

— Gina G. Scala

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