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Bob Lind, Published November 04 2012

Lind: One New Jersey town escaped the worst of Superstorm Sandy damage

Clifford Harrison lives in West Milford, N.J., which is near Manhattan and a long way from Moorhead, where he used to live.

Yes, West Milford was hit by Superstorm Sandy, but not as badly as other cities on the East Coast. In fact, maybe its biggest concern, other than those of traveling and long gas lines, is bears. But then, that’s nothing new.

Cliff, the former chairman of the business and economics department at Concordia College, lived in Moorhead from 1986 until 2011, the year his wife, Marilyn, died. He then moved to West Milford to be near his daughter and her family.

Cliff writes Neighbors that he lives in a complex of senior citizen apartments and assisted-living units. “We are a tiny island that did not lose power (a blessing, but why, I have no idea) among an ocean of blackness covering 6 million people.”

West Milford is a city of about 25,000 and is hilly and very forested.

“We obviously escaped the most disastrous effect of Sandy because of our location, about 40 miles west of Manhattan, the Hudson River and the Jersey shore,” Cliff says.

“The major impact on our many towns of north Jersey (away from the shore) was the high winds, rain and power failures.

“The hurricane winds took down untold numbers of trees and power lines, which closed most of our roads, making travel, getting to work, medical emergencies and other travel needs dangerous and extremely difficult.

“In my town, there were so many streets blocked by trees and downed live power lines that the town ran out of ‘road closing’ signs.

“Service stations without power could not pump gas, and those that could be open had lines of up to and over a mile long. When their supply was gone, it was almost impossible for tankers to resupply the stations due to impassable roads and reported closure of some refineries.”

Cliff’s daughter Pamela Adams and her husband, Rich, live 13 miles from West Milford. They did lose power, so, Cliff says, they “took a circuitous route to my place for a hot lunch, showers and warming up with me for the afternoon.”

Looking at the big picture, Cliff figures, “It will be a difficult, lengthy and expensive restoration of normal life at tremendous cost to our country, which is in no position to provide the needed billions.”

Cliff says he misses Fargo-Moorhead “and all you folks from that phase of my history.” The years he and his wife spent in Fargo-Moorhead “were very special years for both of us.” But he’s glad to be near Pam, Rich and his grandchildren Melissa, just beginning her career as a physical therapist, and Timothy, a junior at Virginia Tech.

And he likes West Milford, despite Sandy. And the bears.

“Our residents share our town with untold numbers of black bears,” he says. After all, he asks, “How many towns have road signs reading ‘Caution: bear crossing?’ ”

Not too many in the Fargo-Moorhead area, Cliff.

If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to (701) 241-5487; or email blind@forumcomm.com