Brick residents look for help, answers following flash floods

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Brick Township was hit hard by Monday’s deluge. 200 homes endured flood damage, 114 of them at Greenbriar I, an over-55 community.

Gov. Phil Murphy toured it this morning.

Debris still sits in front of homes uncollected; the mayor says 90 tons have already been carted away.

No one here had flood insurance, because the community is not in a flood zone.

Murphy said the state would apply to FEMA for help but couldn’t guarantee anything.

“You have to hit certain thresholds and we’re working on that,” said Murphy. “The problem is, FEMA’s hurdle is very high.”

Frustrated homeowners peppered the governor with questions and concerns.

“We hope that FEMA would come, they never showed up,” said flood victim Angel Santos. “We hoped the Red Cross would help us, they can’t help us, and even if they help us, they claim the maximum is $250. That’s toilet paper money compared to what we lost.”

“The state is gathering all the information from the locals. Really to apply for federal assistance, you need to hit certain damage thresholds, certain dollar amounts. So that’s why it’s important to document, get everything in there, report it into your local department,” said Dan Kelly, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Recovery and Rebuilding.

There is bewilderment here because these homes have never flooded before. Suddenly, after 50 years, they get inundated. Residents can’t understand why.

“Again, there’s no easy answer in terms of where we go from here,” Murphy said. “There’s a collective effort to figure out what the heck happened. I think one thing we can’t ignore is an extraordinary amount of rain in a very short amount of time. And unfortunately these are becoming more frequent events both in our state and in our country.”

Some theorize that a widening project on the Garden State Parkway nearby altered the topography.

“We sent our drones up during the storm to take video and take pictures, and we’re going to have engineers review that and see if that construction had anything to do with that,” said Brick Mayor John Ducey. “That’s the only thing that changed. So 50 years without any flooding and then all of a sudden three months after the project completes, people get flooded out with seven feet of water in the roadway? That’s a big change. That’s the only thing that changed.”

Too early to tell, said the governor.

Jon Huston’s house is ruined.

“A hundred homes are wrecked. And we need help now, we don’t need help in two years,” he said.

Inside, the only thing intact is his piano.

“My estimate is it’s probably going to cost me $90,000 to put this back the way it was,” Huston said.

The governor tried to console the flood victims. But two months’ of rain fell here in 2 and a half hours, and you wonder what happens when a downpour arrives again.