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Look out, Bergen: Flooding, outages will get worse

Photo Credit: by Laura Basile (Lyndhurst
Photo Credit: by Laura Basile (Lyndhurst
Photo Credit: by Laura Basile (Lyndhurst
Photo Credit: by Laura Basile (Lyndhurst

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.

Rochelle Park (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo)

UPDATE (5:30 p.m.) 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. READ MORE…

“This is still an active disaster,” Bergen County Emergency Management Coordinator Dwane Razzetti told the group.

And while some residents are feeling emboldened by what now appears to be receding waters in some areas, municipalities are taking the county warnings very seriously.

Glen Rock, for one, issued a curfew on driving that began at 7 tonight and lasts till 5 a.m.

In Dumont, Mayor Matthew McHale has been posting frequently on Facebook, warning residents to be wary of the various dangers that lurk as the sun sets, including flying debris and extinguished basement pilot lights.

Outages spiked in Teaneck this afternoon, and many more are expected in towns that include Dumont, Demarest, Oradell, and Tenafly, along with parts of Hackensack, Teaneck and Westwood, now that flooding has washed out PSE&G pumping stations in both Hillsdale and New Milford, Razzetti warned.

News came after the meeting that a substation in Ho-Ho-Kus was also flooded out of service.

That will only increase the number of those without power, which county officials put at 60,000 as of 4 o’clock. Traffic lights are out in several towns, including downtown Westwood, and fears are that it could take up to a week to repair the substations.

Meanwhile, runoff from New York is expected to dump even more water on streets that have reached heights of more than five feet.

Dan Stark took this photo of a downed tree igniting a fire at Lawton and Hillside avenues in Cliffside Park

“The current estimate is that sometime around midnight the runoff from New York is going to be affecting the Hackensack River,” Razzetti said late this afternoon. “The municipalities have been notified.”

And although New Milford is in the middle of mandatory evacuations and River Edge is asking people to leave, Hackensack and Teaneck don’t appear in any serious trouble, Razzetti said. “We’ve got a good deal of space for [the water] to move,” he said.

Route 46 remains closed both ways in Lodi, while Route 17 is closed both ways near Route 202, both due to flooding.

Holy Name and Bergen Regional medical centers are operating on emergency generators. No evacuations are planned at either facility, Razzetti said.

“We’re working with the public utilities to make sure they get back on power as soon as possible,” he said.

County Public Safety Director Brian Higgins urged authorities throughout the county to keep in mind that power outages not only cut off burglar alarms but also affect the elderly and others with conditions that require special notification buttons.

“If you have a database of people who are on this system, I would recommend that you check on them,” Higgins said. “If you need any assistance, we have doubled up our county police staff.”

Those officers could staff road closures while local officers deal with their residents, Higgins said.

PHOTO by Laura Basile (Lyndhurst)

A squadron of PSE&G trucks are gathered at the Garden State Plaza in Paramus, near the Route 4 and Garden State Parkway east express lanes, with some heading off in various directions.

Englewood Mayor Frank Huttle said he wasn’t as concerned with when power would be restored to parts of his city as he is that utility poles have been found in perilous positions: One is surrounded by a sinkhole held up by electrical wires and two others are already on the ground, he said.

“We have several dangerous conditions,” Huttle said. “We haven’t seen a single PSE&G truck in our city. I’ve been down this road before. It’s unacceptable.”

County Executive Kathleen Donovan, who coordinated the meeting, said the utility would tend to such dangerous conditions as quickly as possible.

Representatives of both PSE&G and Rockland Electric are at the county emergency command center in Mahwah and were being advised of his concerns, she said.

Higgins, meanwhile, warned people about wading into what may appear to be standing water.

“It could be moving at a very quick pace. It can take someone away very quickly,” he said. “And a lot of it is mixed with untreated raw sewage.”

Rochelle Park (CLIFFVIEW PILOT photo)

Two men who decided to take a kayak ride in the storm were fished out of the water in Lodi and could face charges, Razzetti noted.

Rumors of a dam failure in Rockland County are just that, he said. “It’s just spillover occurring,” which Razzetti said will worsen as nightfall approaches.

Bridge inspections will be conducted over next couple of days, once things begin to settle. However, Razzetti urged officials not to hesitate to close bridges that they may consider unstable or unsafe.

“None of us has a complete picture of what happened today,” he told the group. “I think we fared better than some of the catastrophic media reports and weather reports said we would. But it was bad. And it’s not over.”


Bergen towns without power, church flooded, Irene bolts

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.

Washington Township officer, dispatcher hospitalized after CO release at HQ

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.

Storm nearly kills cop

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.

Hoboken after the flood: A picture show

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.

Arson squad at scene of Hillsdale gas station fire

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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