Rain-soaked New Jersey braces for another storm

March 8, 2011 5:57:48 PM PST
Robert Hamlin probably wished he was returning from a relaxing day of fishing as he peeled off his waders Tuesday, but instead he had to use the waterproof gear just to get in and out of his house in this perennially flood-stricken area of northern New Jersey.

"I just walked over to my house to turn the electric back on to save the food in my refrigerator," Hamlin said between bites of a sandwich. "Now, with all the rain they're predicting for Thursday, I'm just going to have to go and turn it back off again."

Waders, rubber boots and anything else that repels water were standard issue for residents in the northeastern part of the state as they cleaned up from flooding caused by rains Sunday night and braced for an even bigger downpour. Forecasters have said another 1 to 3 inches of rain could soak the state Thursday and cause flooding into Friday evening.

Streets were closed around the region Tuesday, many residents had been evacuated or had headed to nearby hotels and others slogged through water that was waist-high in some cases to retrieve belongings and assess damage.

"It's like this every year," a man who gave his first name as Hida said as he pulled on his waders and headed toward his house in a low-lying area off Route 23. "Last year I had 5 feet of water in my house."

Farther north, in Pompton Lakes, the flooding caught even some flood-savvy residents like Chris Baker by surprise. Baker wound up with 2 feet of water on the first floor of his two-story house, ruining most of his furniture. He was staying in a hotel Tuesday.

"This time we didn't have much warning," Baker said. "So I grabbed just a couple of pairs of pants, a little suitcase and beat it out the door."

The National Weather Service posted a flood watch for most of the northern half of the state in addition to Camden, Gloucester, northwest Burlington, western Monmouth counties in the south. Worsening the prospects for flood-prone areas, the precipitation was predicted to start as a mix of snow and rain late Wednesday into early Thursday before turning to heavy rain.

Flood warnings remained in effect for the Pompton, Pequannock, Passaic, Ramapo and Rockaway rivers. Other rivers had dropped below flood stage.

Spokeswoman Mary Goepfert said the state Office of Emergency Management was preparing for another flood as it helped clean up from the past one.


Associated Press writers Bill Newill in Trenton and Adam Pemble in Pompton Lakes contributed to this report.