NJ flooding takes heavy toll

Having three "100-year floods" in the past two years has overwhelmed some residents.

BY HEATHER MOYER | STOCKTON, N.J. | August 14, 2006

Having three "100-year floods" in the past two years has overwhelmed some New Jersey residents.

Myles Varley said flooding that struck the central New Jersey area in late June is just another blow to residents already recovering from previous flooding. "People are devastated," said Varley, executive director of the New Jersey Interfaith Partnership for Disaster Recovery (NJIPDR). "At least they had enough notice this time."

The previous two floods were caused by spring rains in April 2005 and by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.

From this most recent flooding, the hardest hit counties were Hunterdon, Mercer and Warren counties. All three received federal disaster declarations. Communities like Stockton, Lambertville and Trenton were inundated by both the Delaware River and its tributaries as more than eight inches of rain fell over several days. Areas north of the New Jersey towns along the Delaware River also received intense rain over seven days, contributing to the river's effect downstream. Television images showed parts of downtown Trenton completely submerged by the Delaware.

While responders are still collecting damage estimates, Varley said he knows more than 20 homes suffered major damage in Warren County. Yet while the repeat flooding is hard on the residents, Varley noted that he is impressed by how resilient the affected communities are. One of the blessings from the previous floods - if you could call it that, he noted - was that people knew how to prepare for this latest round. "Many had enough notice to empty their houses before this one hit, so they moved out furniture or moved it upstairs," he explained.

And because the communities have been affected before, he added, recovery committees are already in place to handle the needs. NJIPDR helps run unmet needs committees around the state and Varley said he's checking in to assess the needs in impacted areas.

The Rev. June Stitzinger-Clark is also keeping tabs on the affected towns. She agreed that people are taking the disaster in stride, relying on previously created infrastructure to respond once again. "We did deliver 400 flood buckets to the areas, but as far as I can tell people are taking this on the fly," said Stitzinger-Clark, disaster response coordinator for the Greater New Jersey Conference of the United Methodist Church, which includes parts of Pennsylvania and New York.

"That's impressive. If I had to deal with three incidents like this in two years, I wouldn't do so well."

While the cleanup stage is nearly finished, Varley said most communities are now united even more in wanting some sort of mitigation to avoid more floods. In the meantime, he said, the residents will start the repair and rebuild process again.

Varley and Stitzinger-Clark said local agencies and churches are working well together in the response, a move which also may bolster the endurance of the residents themselves. "They do have a great spirit about them - and they will rebuild," said Varley. "The caring that these people have for each other is amazing."

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Related Links:

New Jersey Interfaith Partnership for Disaster Recovery


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