Hundreds of residents in Little Falls, New Jersey were forced to evacuate their homes on Tuesday due to severe flooding.
The flood water in the area continued to rise for approximately 36 hours following the cessation of rainfall.
On Tuesday night, emergency responders deemed it too hazardous to carry out further rescue operations to evacuate individuals from homes in the township. They are advising anyone who may still be inside to seek shelter on a dry surface until Wednesday morning.
The DeLuca family found themselves in a situation where they had to evacuate due to rising waters. With their 2-year-old son, Giovanni, in tow, they boarded a rescue raft.
“We were left without power, without heat, and our basement began to flood. The flooding soon spread to the first level of our home, leaving us with no other choice,” recounted Lisa DeLuca.
The family recently moved into their new home on Main Street.
DeLuca expressed his frustration with the state of their furniture in their newly purchased house, stating, “It’s difficult to even put into words.”
Police and volunteer firefighters heroically rescued a group of twelve residents from the freezing water.
Little Falls Police Chief Bryan Prall expressed his concern about the limited time available for assistance due to the early onset of darkness. He emphasized the importance of heeding early warnings and urged people to seek help before it becomes too late. Chief Prall regretfully acknowledged that later in the evening, responders would not be able to reach those in need of assistance.
On Monday, township officials issued a warning to the 260 households residing in the flood zone, urging them to evacuate. However, it was on Tuesday afternoon when the Passaic River began to exceed its banks, reaching perilous levels.
“We were constantly witnessing its continuous rise. It was at this point that it started to become truly frightening,” expressed Janette Martinez, a resident who had to evacuate.
The Passaic River has experienced flooding in the past, although it rarely occurs during the winter months. This presents a unique challenge for first responders who must contend with freezing temperatures and unreliable utility services.
“I’m experiencing my first winter flood, and it seems like everyone is talking about it. Usually, we don’t have to deal with weather like this, especially the cold,” Prall remarked.
As the rescue crews made their way from one door to another, the residents helplessly witnessed their properties sinking, losing value with each passing minute.
Property manager Tang Ho expressed the need to assess the water level accurately to determine the necessary repairs in a timely manner. “We want to understand the actual height of the water to ensure efficient and prompt repairs,” Ho stated.
Little Falls Mayor James Damiano expressed his sorrow over the devastation caused by the recent events, emphasizing that it is during the recovery and restoration phase that the true extent of the damage becomes apparent.
The DeLuca family is uncertain about when they will be able to return home with Christmas just days away.
“We are extremely grateful to be alive, to be able to breathe, and most importantly, to know that he is safe,” expressed Anthony DeLuca. “Despite the challenges we face, we continue to persevere and remain resilient.”
Despite the potential risks, there are individuals within the flood zone who have chosen to remain and face the uncertain circumstances.
According to resident Chris Benevento, “We have been living here for a while and have experienced this situation multiple times. As a result, we are familiar with the water level when it rises to a certain point in the river.”
Bauman inquired, “How does this storm compare to the regular ones you’ve witnessed during your time here?”
According to Benevento, the flooding usually occurs around Saint Paddy’s Day, early spring, or during the hurricane season. Typically, the snow melting in early spring leads to water collecting in the rivers, causing flooding. Similarly, flooding can also occur during hurricanes. However, it is unusual to experience flooding during the winter season.
Bauman expressed concern about the upcoming evening, wondering if it would bring about feelings of nervousness. He mentioned the possibility of the situation becoming daunting, with rumors circulating about its potential escalation.
Benevento expressed more concern over the possibility of the power being shut off or other utilities being unavailable, rather than being worried about the flooding.
According to the mayor, the water is anticipated to recede by Wednesday morning, giving hope that residents can return to their homes by Wednesday afternoon. However, whether they can stay there or not will depend on the severity of the damage.
The Civic Center, located nearby, is now offering emergency shelter to those in need. It is important to note that pets are not allowed at this facility.