Firefighters rescue three officers swept away in Ida flash flood, fired guns to signal for help

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HOPEWELL TOWNSHIP, NJ – An officer who was trying to tend to a vehicle swept up in the floodwaters compliments of storms stemming from Hurricane Ida earlier in September found himself stranded in the floodwaters himself.

To make matters worse, two officers who went to respond to the stranded officer also became trapped in the floodwaters. Luckily, after much concern and searching, firefighters were able to rescue all three officers who’d been stranded in the waters for roughly two hours.

The incident happened on September 1st at approximately 8:30 p.m., when Hopewell Township Officer James Hoffman responded to the area of east of Route 31 over reports of a vehicle caught in the floodwaters.

Yet after arriving to the scene of the call, Officer Hoffman found himself becoming the victim of the very same circumstances as his vehicle started floating and drafted roughly 100 yards out.

Officer Hoffman ditched his duty vest and climbed out of his patrol car window and swam over to a tree that he could hold onto.

After Officer Hoffman made a distress call regarding his plight, Officers Michael Makwinski and Robert Voorhees responded to the scene – and they too fell victim to the same fate as Officer Hoffman after arriving.

Hopewell Township Police Director Bob Karmazin said that “These two officers were also swept much like the other,” and that they’d also found some trees to latch onto while they awaited rescue.

Firefighters from all over Mercer County assisted in the search for the stranded officers, with Police Director Karmazin saying that they started to worry that they may have lost the officers as communication was lost with the three.

As firefighters were scouting the area, the officers reportedly fired their service weapons to signal where they were. It was a crew from Hamilton Fire Department, led by Battalion Chief Tim Sharpley, that ultimately got the three officers onto a boat and back to unflooded land.

Chief Sharpley noted that the waters were pretty rough in the area where the three officers were stranded:

“The water was rushing pretty bad, it was moving.”

The Hamilton Fire chief also gave credit to the Union Fire Company in Hopewell and Lawrenceville Fire Company with helping to locate the officers:

“It was a joint effort by multiple agencies.”

Police Director Karmazin applauded the efforts from the all the agencies involved the rescue of the officers:

“We owe them a debt of gratitude.”

All three of the officers were virtually uninjured, but clearly exhausted from being stranded in the water for roughly two hours. Chief Sharpley commented on the level of exhaustion one of the officers displayed after being rescued, saying one of them collapsed on the boat after being loaded in:

“He just laid there by himself to gather himself for a few minutes.”

Police Director Karmazin referred to the officers as “real heroes” as they put their own safety at risk in order to help others that day:

“They had a total disregard for their own safety, and we’re very lucky they were able to hold on the way they did.”

Chief Sharpley, who said he was glad the officers were able to be rescued and that “everyone did a fantastic job,” also noted that the rescue of those officers was just one instance of numerous rescues performed by firefighters across the county that evening and into the early morning thereafter.

Police Director Karmazin confirmed that same notion, saying the rescue of the officers was one of about 50 rescues performed related to people stranded in floodwaters due to Hurricane Ida.

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It’s begun: Police dealing with spreading reports of looting after Hurricane Ida in New Orleans

(Originally published September 1st, 2021)

NEW ORLEANS, LA – According to reports, officials in New Orleans are now dealing with looting in the fallout of Hurricane Ida, the category 4 storm that ripped through New Orleans on August 29th.

One journalist even caught some of the looting in action while piloting a drone through the area.

One of the sad realities that have become commonplace in the wake of high-category storms is the looting that transpires. New Orleans Police Chief Shaun Ferguson said in a briefing on August 30th that looting will “not be tolerated”:

“This is a state felony, and we will be booking you accordingly.”

Brandon Clement, who runs the Twitter account WXChasing, caught two individuals trying to figure out how to extract the money from an ATM machine in the area of the St. Claude market, where a fire reportedly destroyed the market and the cause of said incident remains under investigation:

“The moment looters realize a drone is watching them try to break into an ATM machine in burned down St. Claude market in the lower 9th ward.”

Journalist Jonathan Riches also reported that a local convenience store was one of numerous places looted while a power outage that came as a result of the storm afforded cover for said crimes to be committed:

“Gauchet’s Rockery Service Gas Station Convenience Store on the Corner Robert E Lee Blvd & Canal Blvd Broken into & looted last night in New Orleans. Looters ran off when [New Orleans Police] arrived. Looting reported all over the city last night that is still without Power.”

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell also spoke about looting taking place in the city during the fallout of the storm, citing a zero tolerance approach to opportunists trying to take advantage of the circumstances:

“My directive has been very clear: Lock ’em up. We will not tolerate it, and we have not tolerated it. So we have apprehended those individuals associated with the looting we have been able to identify.”

However, Mayor Cantrell also wanted to counter reports of the looting being “widespread” within the city:

“There is no widespread looting going on in the city of New Orleans.

What we do have that’s widespread are residents who are being neighbors, who are understanding and exhibiting the spirit of humility, of empathy, who are cleaning up their lawns, who are servicing their community.

That’s widespread in the city of New Orleans.”

And arrests are apparently taking place, as local reporter Beau Zimmer posted images of a New Orleans Dollar General store that was looted, noting that NOPD took at least one person into custody:

“Looting at the Dowman Rd [Dollar General] store in New Orleans East. NOPD just arrived and took at least one person into custody. The store is trashed.”

NPR reports that while the levees, floodwalls and floodgates were able to withstand the storm in New Orleans, some of the suburbs in the city are flooded.

Hurricane Ida was downgraded to a tropical storm classification, according to reports, with the New York Times reporting that evacuees are being urged to avoid returning to their homes while officials address issues such as water and sewage disruption and lacking power.

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Man’s best friend: Rookie police K-9 tracks down missing child in woods during Tropical Storm Elsa

(Originally published July 14th, 2021)

FORT MYERS, FL – A missing 12-year-old girl was found after she reportedly got lost in the woods during Tropical Storm Elsa by a newly trained K9 named Mercy earlier in July.

Officials say that this newly trained K9 was able to track the young girl down for over half a mile through the woods amid the tropical storm.

The young girl reportedly went missing on the evening of July 6th within Lee County. Deputy Travis Jelly was partnered up with his newly trained K9 Mercy, which the pair jumped into action and helped locate the young girl through the thick woods in spite of the harsh weather conditions.

Thanks to K9 Mercy, the young girl was recovered and reunited with her family.

A post from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office commended K9 Mercy’s efforts, recapping the locating of the missing girl:

“Last night, deputies responded to a reported missing endangered 12-year-old girl. As part of Sheriff Carmine Marceno’s Reunite Program, K9 Mercy responded to assist in the search. Despite severe weather from Tropical Storm Elsa, Mercy tracked the little girl for more than half a mile through thick woods. Thankfully, Mercy found her and brought her safely back home to her family.”

K9 Mercy had finished training mere days prior to locating the young girl. 

Lee County Sheriff’s Deputy Julio Lock commented on the locating of the child, calling it “a win” for all involved: 

“Reuniting a family with a lost child like that – especially in a tropical storm or hurricane and we got her home before any harm could come to her…it’s a home run for us. It’s a win.”

Tropical Storm Elsa has resulted in at least one recorded fatality in Florida, which reports states that the man killed in Florida died due to heavy rain and wind causing a tree to fall onto a vehicle. 

A Navy base in Georgia also recorded several injuries as a result of the tropical storm. The storm eventually moved up toward the upper portions of the east coast, which the New York City Triathlon has scaled back to a Duathlon due to the storm

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