Some New Jersey communities along Passaic River still flooded after weekend storm

Janice Yu Image
Thursday, December 21, 2023
Some communities along Passaic River still flooded after weekend storm
Crystal Cranmore has the latest details.

PATERSON, New Jersey (WABC) -- Parts of New Jersey remained underwater on Thursday, even after the Passaic River reached its peak.

Some of the roads appear to look a little better than this time the day before, but there's still a long way to go before the water level recedes to below flood stage.

Emergency crews were busy in Paterson wading through floodwater to knock on doors.

People were clutching bags of their belongings as first responders reached them in boats and large vehicles.

Mayor Andre Sayegh said that Paterson Public Schools would be closed until January 2nd due to the flooding and holiday.

The Mayor of Paterson speaks out about what residents can expect.

The water in Wayne is finally inching its way down, slowly.

Many people are still stuck inside their homes days after the storm.

The waters got so high at one point that a woman jumped in to rescue one of her neighbors.

The dangerous rescue was captured on video. The woman who carried it out is mother of three, Christine Ortiz.

Dan Krauth has the latest details.

"I'm like someone's in the car, we've got to do something," she explained to Eyewitness News reporter Dan Krauth.

The interview took place via Zoom because her Wayne home is still surrounded by water.

"I'm yelling 'Bob! Bob! Bob!' and he's not really responding to me. He's moving in - super slow moving and I'm like something's wrong," Ortiz explained.

Tuesday night, Ortiz opened her door to check on the rising flood waters. She spotted her elderly neighbor trapped with freezing cold waters filling up his SUV.

She called 911 and then jumped in to save him.

Armed with a frying pan, she was able to eventually pull her neighbor out of the car, put him on her back and swim home.

They kept him warm until paramedics were able to get to the house.

"As soon as we got him in the house, I said this is why we're here, this is why we stayed here instead of leaving and going to like a hotel," Ortiz said.

Those who aren't trapped inside their homes showed up to get disaster clean up kits from the American Red Cross on Thursday.

"I literally left with the clothes I had on my back," one woman said.

One family, after another, with a similar story.

"We had to we had no choice but to get rescued. It was unlivable conditions. Our cars, our belongings, sentimental value stuff is gone," said another.

In Little Falls, streets are still flooded but some residents are being allowed to return home. Mayor James Belford Damiano posted an update on his Facebook page on Thursday afternoon.

Many others are still waiting for the water to recede as Christmas fast approaches.

"We had to leave because our heat went out. With the kids, and I'm expecting, we couldn't do it," a resident said.

Little Falls Police Department is providing updates on who can return home on its social media accounts.

Even once the water recedes, people will be going back home to a mess, so recovery will take time.

The governor announced new ways to protect people from what he calls "flood risks brought by climate change." When buying or renting, owners must disclose prior flooding problems first.

But that does nothing for the thousands of people effected by current flood waters.

"I've got to replace everything," Little Falls resident Eddie Asaad said.

Asaad is distraught over the loss in his basement, and his insurance is only covering about half his stay at a hotel.

"I know I'll stay longer. It's the holidays and everyone won't be out," he said.

Local leaders declared a state of emergency but no declaration from the state with the governor's office saying "they're monitoring the situation around the clock."

"If everyone did their part and just helped out the next person, this world would be so much better than what it is now," Ortiz said.

Luckily, Christine has food and electricity at her home on Thursday, although she's still not able to get out. She's also waiting to get a condition on the neighbor she helped save.

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