Flood waters down, anger up in NJ communities

April 19, 2011 2:16:55 PM PDT
The latest siege of flood waters along the Passaic and other rivers in New Jersey is finally letting up. But the exceptional number of floods this year is pushing many people to demand more help from the state.

The people who live on Woodcliff Street have the Passaic River flowing through their backyards and, in some cases, through their homes.

The steady rain falling most of the day certainly hasn't helped.

"It's really, really bad," said Nadia Elzeni, a Little Falls resident.

Little Falls residents who live along the Passaic River are flooded out.

After Saturday's heavy rain the river crested Monday night, but the water is slow to recede.

"Every year we get a lot of rain, more than the year before," said Sam Elzeni, a Little Falls resident.

People in Wayne are wearing high waders and using boats to get to and from their flooded homes.

This flood is the second in six weeks, the third in just over a year.

"It used to be every 10 years, now it's every month," said Sal Massa, a contractor.

Sal Massa showed up to the Little Falls neighborhood to repair the damage from last month's flood.

The family who hired him wasn't home and it looks like their home is damaged yet again.

They didn't even have time to clean up from the last flood before their house was flooded again.

"They had 14 inches last month, looks like it's getting up there again," Massa said.

Homeowners are getting pretty tired of the flood-clean-up cycle they've gotten in lately.

They want the state and federal governments to pay to fix whatever is making the Passaic so prone to flooding in the last several years.

"They have a lot of problems, they do the houses and then redo them again, it's a lot of money wasted," said Santos Flores, a Little Falls resident.

And the predictions of more rain in the forecast have residents in Wayne worried about still-flooded out roads. The mayor of Pequannock says the he can't believe they have had this much flooding since the beginning of the year.

"It is beyond belief," Mayor Richard Phelan said. "I mean, it's just out of control as far as we're concerned."

Phelan says that until the state commits tens of millions of dollars, there will be no end to the flooding.

"It's becoming very difficult for the residents," he said. "I mean, if it's once every 10 years, it's one thing. But three times in one year, it's just horrible. They put the new sheet rock up, and we get flooded again."

While the waters receded and streets reopened in most communities, Wayne still had flooding and impassable streets. But in Pequannock, where the water levels dropped, many homeowners say they're desperate to get out.

The township has presented FEMA with a recommended list of 130 homes to buy out. But there's no guarantee it will happen, or that the price will be fair.

"They started buying out houses on North Pequannock, and they're coming over here," resident Dina Harper said. "And now there's a list, so you gotta wait."

"We just literally got everything back together last week," another resident said. "And then yesterday, this comes all back up again."

And one new homeowner can't believe what's happening - flood, after flood, after flood since the start of the year.

"How can this happen?" Jennifer Nemeth asked. "How can this happen? Someone is opening a floodgate somewhere, because three inches of rain doesn't do this. I don't care how fast it comes down."

Most of the rivers crested about two feet above flood stage Monday evening.

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