After a weekend of torrential rain and flash floods, the cleanup was just beginning when it began to rain again.
“Someone please come and help them. Their whole neighborhood is destroyed. Beautiful homes are being condemned. People don’t have a place to go,” said Colleen Dunne. “Somebody has to come out and help these people.”
In Little Falls, multiple homes were condemned because floodwaters had washed out foundations. A car was virtually in the basement of one house. The sidewalks were littered with dressers, household supplies, books and lots of garbage bags. Cars were pushed onto front lawns and filled with mud.
“It’s terrible,” said Little Falls resident Ida Petty. “It’s really depressing.”
The lucky ones escaped with just a mess on their hands. Some residents say there has been no immediate help from local or state agencies.
“Just cleaning out the basement. The water was up to about here. Just trying to get rid of everything here,” said Gary Campagna of Campagna Services.
“We have two feet on the first floor, plus the basement,” Little Falls resident Badreddin Youssef said.
The residents of one block in Little Falls say they have not seen flooding this bad since Hurricane Floyd. In fact, the owner of one house says the water level reached the bottom of his windows in about two minutes. He had to be rescued by boat.
Rob Mendoza’s home is now uninhabitable.
“I was sleeping and I hearing some hissing noise. I started looking around the house to see where it was coming. I went upstairs, downstairs and down to the basement and saw a little bit of water coming in. And then all of a sudden, I looked at the windows of my basement and they were all mud water, so I rushed out of there. By the time I came up here, I saw my truck floating. The water was about 6 feet high,” said Mendoza.
Saturday, nearly 5 inches of rain fell in Essex, Passaic and Bergen Counties.
“Overwhelming. A lot going on. A lot of flooded homes, so we’re just trying our best to make everybody happy,” said Ben Bajrami from Jersey Pro Restoration.
At an auto dealership near where the ruined homes are, cars were swept into the Peckman River. In Bogota, a bride on her wedding day had to be rescued from the top of a car. And in Brick Township, floodwaters made the roads unpassable.
“This is the result of a very moisture-rich atmosphere — a pattern that has been with us for a month,” said David Robinson, Rutgers University state climatologist. “And on occasion you get some very strong storms that pop up that don’t move too fast. They sit over an area for a while.”
The Governor’s Office says Gov. Phil Murphy will tour Little Falls Monday night, and the mayors of Little Falls and Woodland Park plan to brief the media.
As for what to do next, Montville resident Anthony Goglia had an idea.
“We’re going to Florida today,” he said.
And climatologists say the good news from all of this rain — there’s no longer concern about a summer drought.