Several Secaucus residents had to be rescued by boat and many more were still recovering from flooding last week after Hurricane Irene lashed the state on Saturday and Sunday.
The storm caused town-wide power outages, an overflow of the Hackensack River, and fallen trees. Residents who live in low-lying areas bordering the river and the surrounding Meadowlands marshes spent the week cleaning up their homes and assessing damage. Some residents had up to seven feet of water in their homes.
Mill Ridge road became a river unto itself at high tide. Residents were rescued by boat early Sunday morning.
“Everything is floating,” said Zilpa Rizzo, resident of eight years who lives next to the Mill Creek Marsh, which borders the Hackensack River. Rizzo and her family were rescued by boat and taken to a relative’s house. “This is the worst we’ve seen,” she said. “A total loss in the basement.”
“Everything is floating.” – Zilpa Rizzo
“This is a first for me. I’ve been [in this house] since 1993,” said Gonnelli. He was up at 1 a.m. Sunday at the same time the electricity went out throughout Secaucus, working with the energy company and the town’s Office of Emergency Management. He said one house completely shifted from the flooding waters. That home has been deemed unsafe until they make the repairs.
Water surrounded cars in the middle of Farm Road. Secaucus Road and the Meadowlands Parkway were closed due to massive flooding. Tenth Street at Acorn, Grace Avenue, and Hagan Place also experienced flooding and Harmon Cove residents went without power for an extended period of time beyond the rest of Secaucus that saw power go back on around noon on Sunday. The DPW pumped water out of 40 homes that had experienced significant flooding.
Edward and Marie Roesing’s backyard overflowed with water. The basement had two feet of water.
“We’re on the second level, so it was fine,” said Roesing, a lifelong resident. She said the berm, or raised bank bordering the river behind her house, had sunk.
“Mother Nature is going to do what she wants to do,” said Gonnelli. “You can’t stop the river from coming up the road,” he added.
Preparing for the storm
Residents received sandbags, flashlights were handed out to seniors, and the OEM delivered flyers to people throughout town with storm preparation information. OEM knocked on doors of residents in low-lying areas and issued some evacuations.
The mayor coordinated with the Meadowlands hospital, the county and Secaucus Office of Emergency Management, and the fire and police departments to set up a shelter triage unit at Huber Street School. Seventeen people showed up at the shelter on foot, 27 received medical treatment, and three people in critical condition were stabilized before being transported to the hospital.
“We had the only triage unit in Hudson County,” said Judy Kennelly, public information officer, who cited OEM coordinator Vincent Massaro.
The town has advised residents to take precautionary measures with homes damaged by the flooding such as checking for structural damage before re-entering, keeping the power off until an electrician has inspected the property, and wearing gloves and boots when disinfecting items.
Flooding an issue
Situated next to the Hackensack River with parts of town built upon meadows and marsh, Secaucus has a history of flooding. The town has designated flood zones and homes that repeatedly experience flooding throughout the year when a major storm hits. While places on Humboldt Street and Golden Avenue have experienced flooding in the past, many other homes were affected by Hurricane Irene.
“It hasn’t been this bad since 1992. And ’92 wasn’t as bad as this one,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. Over the years, the town has addressed vulnerable areas. On Golden Avenue the town installed a multi-million dollar pump station. The town also has six emergency pumps that can be moved into position where needed. Several years ago the town placed raised berms around the Mill Creek area.
Mayor Gonnelli said the berms were built at elevation 10 and did not break this time, but the river flowed over the berms and came up the roadway.
Moving forward, he said the town will survey all the berms and look to have berms at 11 or 12 feet above sea level.
“We plan to address each area [that flooded],” said Gonnelli “We had a really coordinated effort. We’ve had a ton of resources.”
Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at email@example.com.