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Northern Highlands Daily Voice serves Allendale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Midland Park, Saddle River, Upper Saddle River & Waldwick

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Bergen towns without power, church flooded, Irene bolts

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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.

PHOTO by Jeanine Alvino Doyle of Northvale for CLIFFVIEW PILOT

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. READ MORE ….

The storm left the Hillsdale substation on Paterson Street underwater and several towns in Bergen without power: Hillsdale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Old Tappan, Paramus, Ridgewood, Upper Saddle River, Washington Township and Woodcliff Lake. Valley Hospital is operating on its generators.

All told, as many as half a million New Jersey customers were without power. That makes more than 4 million powerless along the Eastern Seaboard.

And even though the clouds made way for bright sunshine, we’re getting winds powerful enough to topple more trees.

Then come MORE floods. Maybe even two to three days worth.

Because power was out in Washington Township, a police sergeant and a firefighter working as a dispatcher, “ended up working for five hours straight with a generator going in a room that wasn’t well ventilated,” a source with direct knowledge of the situation told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . ( SEE: Washington Township officer, dispatcher hospitalized after CO release at HQ )

Two firefighters were injured in a pre-dawn Hillsdale gas station blaze ( SEE: Arson squad at scene of Hillsdale gas station fire ), and a tree fell through a house at 492 Westbrook Road in Ridgewood .

The Pascack Brook overflowed its banks, floodgates were opened at the Woodcliff Lake reservoir and streets in low-lying areas quickly became rivers more than five feet deep.

Lake Street, between Center & Broadway, Westwood ( PHOTO by Tom Smith for CLIFFVIEW PILOT)

Lyndhurst firefighters ran to seven different calls in a little over four hours, the last one keeping them at a three-story building on Third Avenue.

In Westwood, the Prospect Avenue bridge is under water and the entire Harding Avenue area is flooded, as is The Cornerstone and several other businesses in town. Hillsdale isn’t faring much better .

River Drive in Elmwood Park is closed from Willow Street to the Fair Lawn border. New Bridge Road in New Milford is closed west of River Road. Sporadic outages have been reported, and the town DPW superintendent says the sewer system is about to overflow.

In Lodi, Main Street and the bridge near the Lodi Boys and Girls Club is flooded, as is Gregg Street from Route 17 to Meta Lane.

Police Chief Frank Papapietro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT he’s relieved that 21 families “heeded our request and self-evacuated.”

PHOTO by Alex Protin of Westwood for CLIFFVIEW PILOT

Route 80 is flooded out in several areas, including the Summit Avenue/Route 17 exit in Hackensack, the River Road exit in Elmwood Park, and the Route 120/Paterson Plan Road exit in East Rutherford — where a downed pole is reported, State Police said.

Forget about Route 46 as an alternative: East Union Avenue in East Rutherford is shut down, as are the areas around the Little Ferry circle and west of Summit Avenue in Lodi. A few trees are down in Fair Lawn. Wagaraw Road is flooded.

Lyndhurst’s emergency calls began at 4 a.m. as floodwaters began rising: They included fires, smoke conditions, and malfunctioning fire alarms at Sacred Heart School and a local auto dealership, Lyndhurst Police Chief James O’Connor told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

River Street railroad trestle, Hackensack

A branch came down at 112 Lake Avenue, which not only took out service to the house but ignited an electrical fire, the chief said. The same line started a basement fire at a house across the street, he said.

“These were tough jobs for the fire department,” O’Connor told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “As they’re dealing with these calls, the Passaic River is rising. They ended up battling two fires in floodwaters.

Roxbury Apartments, Westwood (Tom Smith photo)

“These are volunteers. They’ve been at it all night long. And all they ever ask for is maybe a cup of coffee.”

Since 4 in the afternoon Saturday, when Lyndhurst’s emergency operations center opened for the storm, “we’ve had nothing but outstanding free help,” O’Connor said. “We’re ready to deal with anything. And we’ve got ten 40-yard dumpsters ready to roll to help with the cleanup.”

As the chief spoke, he dispatched an officer to retrieve a rubber raft to get a worker to a pumping station on the riverbank that’s “been going at it all night.”

Meanwhile, a Hudson County sheriff’s officer confirmed that power was being shut down in Jersey City, and that at least one person was rescued from floodwaters in Hoboken.

“We’re far from being out of the woods,” Papapietro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT at 6:30. “Everyone everywhere tonight — police department, fire departments, EMS, DPWs — did some job, but there’s no sign that many of them can go home yet.”

On Kinderkamack Avenue (PHOTO by Bill Hutch for CLIFFVIEW PILOT)

Residents in low-lying areas know better than to think the worst is over, not with all the rainwater that’s accumulated — some of it making its way up their front steps. Bergen ordinarily floods at 3 inches; some folks are literally looking at 5 FEET worth.

August’s record rainfall has weakened tree roots, which could mean not only the risk of damage but severe power outages.

As local municipalities caught their collective breath, if for just a moment, Bergen County’s command center in Mahwah geared up to full capacity before 8 a.m.

Reports through the morning went as expected, if not smoother. Intense planning, under Bergen County Emergency Management Coordinator Dwane Razzetti, along with dozens of police departments with officers not only deployed but on standby, has meant quick responses.

This house on Roosevelt Boulevard in Oakland blocks the brunt of the Ramapo River from others downstream (PHOTO by Leo McGuire)

“Everyone everywhere — police departments, fire departments, EMS, DPWs — have done a heck of a job so far. But there’s no sign of too many going home yet,” Papapietro told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

At daybreak, several departments began getting calls from residents who say they’re trapped by floodwaters. Emergency workers are asking them to stay dry and safe and to remain patient — as long as they don’t have a medical condition or other serious health hazard that requires immediate attention.

“We’ve lost enough vehicles to the water,” one high-ranking municipal official told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “We started issuing warnings early, so everyone would have enough time to move.

“Some people are just going to have to wait.”

CLIFFVIEW PILOT has an amazing array of photos from FDU grad Jayme Lisiew ski, who has been on top of the storm out of Hoboken since the first clouds rolled in. These include s hots from Hoboken Terminal, Waterfront Park and several streets in town. CLICK HERE FOR THE PHOTO SHOW ….


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