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Evacuation stories: Wade in the water

Evacuees recall fleeing flood.


Gary Cuffie knew it was time to get out after voluntary evacuations were recommended in Bound Brook two weekends ago.

"My family said we shouldn't go yet, but I said we had to go. I knew it'd get worse," Cuffie said.

It got much worse. Severe flooding devastated parts of the town during a powerful nor'easter in mid-April.

Cuffie and his friend Colby Pabey sat outside a shelter at Bound Brook Presbyterian Church Thursday afternoon recounting their evacuation stories. Pabey's was similar.

"When the water started coming up, we grabbed what we could grab and we left," she said.

Both of their families had to wade through water up to their waists as they evacuated their neighborhoods. Pabey said she and her boyfriend found a barrel, filled it with some of their belongings and their dog and then floated it between them as they walked out.

Cuffie wrapped up his baby daughter and carried her as he guided his wife and two other daughters out of the area.

"I saw water shooting up out of manhole covers," he recalled.

Pabey said water was coming up in the toilets and sinks in her home. Once in town, she said she could not believe how bad the flooding had gotten.

"I have never seen that much water, not even in a swimming pool," she said.

As her family waded through the streets, they saw fish and snakes in the water. Cuffie said he found large dead catfish inside several of the businesses he has helped clean out.

The Bound Brook area received more than 9 inches of rain from the storm, which sent the two local creeks and the Raritan River out of their banks and quickly into the town. Hundreds of homes and businesses suffered damage. Some had up to 8 feet of water inside. Many have been condemned.

It was the second major flood to hit the northern New Jersey community in 10 years. The remnants of Hurricane Floyd flooded the area in 1999. Cuffie lived through that and said the latest flood was not as bad.

Now sheltered at the Presbyterian church, both Cuffie and Pabey said they were grateful for the church's kindness, the excellent food and the friendly church members and American Red Cross workers staffing the facility.

They said they were humbled by how generous the community and surrounding towns have been with their support.

"Other communities have really showed the love," Cuffie said. "They've donated food and blankets."

Pabey said no matter what people donate, it was appreciated by the flood families.

"People may not think it's a lot, but it means a lot to us," she said.

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