New Jersey Mudslides, Homes Destroyed

By Jessica Tanski

Destruction caused by Lewis Lane mudslide. By Jessica Tanski

On Thursday, September 8, 2011, the residents of Lewis Lane in Mountain Lake, New Jersey, experienced a severe mudslide because of the brutal effects of hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee.

Around 6:00PM on Thursday, the house at 14 Lewis Lane slid off the mountain. The foundation on which the house sat gave out, causing the house to collapse. Everyone who lived in the house got out safe and are alive. The home owners, Angie and Jeremy Tanner, were in their basement when water started seeping through the wall. They saw the wall break and got out in time.

However, their four cats were still trapped inside the house. Nineteen year old Mountain Lake firefighter and resident of Lewis Lane, Kenny Lunden, said, “I was amazed when I ran to the bottom of the hill and saw the top of the hill sitting next to the lake.”

The house next to 14 Lewis Lane, 12 Lewis Lane, was also severely damaged and knocked off of its foundation. The woman who lives in the house, Gail Speirs, heard neighbors yelling to get out. Obeying, she also got out of her house alive and safe.  Both houses were condemned the following day by the building inspector.

It was later confirmed by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and the fire department that the houses had collapsed due to soil saturation and the underground spring in which the houses had been built upon.

The dry stream swelled from the over twelve inches of rain and flash flood conditions from the storms. Nearly a week later the streams were still steadily flowing but have now stopped.

The mudslide forced over 50 residents of Lewis Lane to evacuate their homes and find safer grounds. Sean Gilmore, a 19 year old Mountain Lake firefighter and resident of Lewis Lane said, “I started running door to door to tell people that they had fifteen minutes to get stuff and leave their house. We did not know how long they would be out of their homes for.”

Food and shelter were provided for the victims by the town and the American Red Cross. The neighborhood also pulled together to try and do everything they could to aid in this natural nightmare. Nykun’s Store in Great Meadows donated sandwiches to the residents and those who had helped out that weekend. Mama’s Restaurant in Hackettstown donated a dollar for each pizza pie they sold for the entire week to the families who lost their homes. Anonymous donations have also been received by the families.

As of today, all of the families have returned to their homes, but Lewis Lane is restricted to foot traffic only. No automobiles are allowed to drive up or down the road. Emergency personnel and the township urges for sightseers to please be cautions and mindful that the residents of Lewis Lane have been severely affected and to keep sightseeing to a minimum to ease the ongoing suffering.