CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE: Bergen County sustained $20 million in flood damage that will be covered by federal disaster funds, county officials said today. “We’re ahead of this. The worst is over,” County Emergency Management Coordinator Dwane Razzetti reassured a countywide conference call of local officials anxious about more Passaic River flooding. Executive Kathleen Donovan also corrected “pure sensationalism” media reports.
One was that Wallington was being evacuated. “That is absolutely not true,” an angry Donovan said.
Also untrue are rumors of problems at Bergen Community College, which is packed to capacity with evacuees. Razzetti said the rumors have somehow “made it all the way to Trenton” but are completely unfounded.
“We have plenty of security there,” he said. That includes county police dispatched by Public Safety Director Brian Higgins.
As for any more flooding from the Passaic or other rivers, Razzetti said he is positive there is no cause for any concern.
However, he said county and local officials my pursue evacuations or other voluntary measures just as a precaution — so don’t be surprised if you heard a flood siren or get a reverse 911 emergency call.
“The Passaic River is not going to be going up any farther,” he emphasized. “It will continue to recede. The only thing that will happen when the tide rises is that the rate of receding will slow down. We are certain it will not continue to flood.
“We’re ahead of it now,” he said. “Instead of looking ahead in hours, we have to think in terms of days.”
That means obtaining the necessary federal funds to bring the county back to where it was before Hurricane Irene swept in over the weekend — leaving Bergen and Passaic counties the heaviest damaged in all of North Jersey.
Razzetti said the estimate sent to Washington via Trenton is $20 million, which he said government officials have assured Gov. Christie of providing. The governor earlier today formally asked Obama to expedite the process.
“They are pretty confident that we will receive a presidential [disaster] declaration,” Razzetti said this afternoon. “They can’t say when [the funds will come]. But all indicators are that we’ll get them.”
If municipalities need large roll-off bins, he said, local officials should start contracting out for them.
“We’ve double-checked with FEMA: It is a reimbursable expense.”
As reported by CLIFFVIEW PILOT at 4:30 this afternoon, the Passaic River crested earlier than the National Weather Service had forecast, exceeding 14 feet. The total is the second-highest ever in the river’s recorded history, following the 17.5-foot flood on Oct. 10, 1903.
Now it’s a matter of it slowly inching to below flood stage — 7 feet — most likely by the end of the week, the weekend the latest, forecasts show.
“The tide’s going to be coming up, but the only thing it will do is slow the receding of the [river],” Razzetti repeated. “We are not going to see the flooding on the Saddle River that we’ve seen.”
However, he said, county officials are keeping search and rescue teams in place “through a tidal cycle or two” to be absolutely sure. Then it’s time to move forward, he said.
“We all have our own issues at home. There are responders who have 10 feet of water in their basements and they’re not tending to that. They’re out rescuing people. They need a break.”
The entire organization of Bergen County emergency management response got high grades from, among others, Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor.
“They were the utmost professionals,” O’Connor said of the response teams that rushed to their neighborhoods during what initially was a tense Monday night. “Even the residents commented how professional they were and on their show of sincerity.”
What’s more, the chief said, “everybody up [at the OEM command center in Mahwah] has been a great resource.
“We got a little nerouvs last night about 8:45. We heard that people were afraid that the Dundee Dam was breached,” O’Connor said. But a a quick call to Razzetti, he said, set things straight.
The borough has already moved sixty 40-yard containers of debris from its flooded neighborhoods, according to O’Connor.
“We’re getting great cooperation rom our residents. We’re already in semi-recovery stage.”
Several towns took severe hits on either side of the river — among them, Fair Lawn, Wallington and, worst of all, Little Falls.
“I wish people would stop saying Irene was nothing and New Jersey was spared,” Dorothy Cook DiPiazza of Fair Lawn told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “I have NEVER seen flooding like this in 40 years of my life. This is not good.”
What is good is that several rivers and streams have receded from exceedingly high levels:
The Ramapo River hit nearly 16 feet in Mahwah, before receding to 8 feet;
The Hackensack River, which was up to 11.8 feet Sunday afternoon, has finally settled way below flood stages in both New Milford and River Vale.
Pascack Brook was down to 4.5 feet in Park Ridge, from a high of 6.8 over the weekend, and to 5 feet in Westwood, from 8.7;
One of the more troubling waterways, the Saddle River in Lodi, finally dropped to 6 feet after cresting at 13.5;
The two worst, by far, were the Passaic River, which peaked at 14.19 about 12 hours ago, and the Ramapo River in Pompton Lakes, which went from 11.7 feet to a record 22.6 ( SEE: Rivers wreaking havoc in North Jersey ).
By far the heaviest of all the hard hits was in Little Falls, where hundreds of locations have been evacuated. The Wayne mall known as Willowbrook remains closed today.
Route 23 was closed. Sections of Route 46 and Route 80 have reopened, but a scan of the data shows we’re not out of the waters yet: RIVER WATCH .
Although New Milford had welcoming news, water is still pouring over the Oradell dam to the west. And Dumont is struggling to return to both power and dry ground ( SEE: Dumont still waiting for power, as New Milford returns to life ).
MORE (CLICK ON HEADLINES TO READ):
Tuesday, 30 August 2011 07:37 Jerry DeMarco
CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: The good news in North Jersey is that both the Hackensack and Ramapo rivers are continuing to recede. The bad news: We’re in for a mini heat wave, with temperatures rising today and hitting the mid- to upper-80s tomorrow — which spells even more grief for an area of Bergen County that is already both flooded and without power.
Sunday, 28 August 2011 20:57 Jerry DeMarco
CLIFFVIEW PILOT EXCLUSIVE REPORT: Massive power outages and flooding will likely continue past midnight tonight, as New York runoff swells the already overflowing Hackensack River, Pascack Brook and area reservoirs, making an already bad situation much worse, Bergen County leaders told mayors and other government officials during a 15-minute emergency conference call this afternoon.
Sunday, 28 August 2011 13:23 Jerry DeMarco
CLIFFVIEW PILOT STORM COVERAGE: Tropical Storm Irene staggered toward Boston after leaving several North Jersey towns without power into the mid-afternoon, streets flooded with water up to five feet high and a torrent literally pouring up the aisle of St. John’s Church in Hillsdale. Bergen County police are setting up in Washington Township, where a CO leak sent two people to the hospital. Meanwhile, investigators are examing why a Hillsdale gas station nearly went up in flames, injuring two firefighters.
Sunday, 28 August 2011 18:18 Jerry DeMarco
CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Bergen County Police are establishing a command post at the Washington Township firehouse after a police sergeant and a firefighter working as a dispatcher were hospitalized following a buildup of carbon monoxide in a pooly ventilated room, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned.
Sunday, 28 August 2011 13:48 Jerry DeMarco
ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT: A police officer headed down a dark street in his radio car cheated death — by an instant.
Sunday, 28 August 2011 16:41 Jerry DeMarco
CLIFFVIEW PILOT has an amazing array of photos from FDU grad Jayme Lisiewski, who has been on top of the storm out of Hoboken since the first clouds rolled in. These include shots from Hoboken Terminal, Waterfront Park and several streets in town.
Sunday, 28 August 2011 09:05 Jerry DeMarco
CLIFFVIEW PILOT HAS IT FIRST: Arson investigators were at the Valero gas station on Broadway in Hillsdale, where two local firefighters suffered minor injuries extinguishing a pre-dawn blaze while being pounded with rain and wind.
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