flooding, irene, nj, new jersey, home
One New Jersey family may never be able to return to the place they called home for several generations after Irene washed away the foundation. Pat Battle reports.
Weary residents across the Northeast pulled soggy furniture and ruined possessions onto their front lawns as they cleaned up and surveyed the damage wrought by Hurricane Irene.
The mess of destroyed furniture on Paul Postma's front lawn looked like a yard sale gone wrong. Over the weekend, Postma had watched as more than two feet of water filled the bottom level of his home in Lincoln Park, N.J. Days later, he was using bleach to wipe down the house's mud-soaked walls.
"None of this has value," he said. "At least not anymore."
President Barack Obama on Sunday will visit Paterson, N.J., where currents of the Passaic River swept through the city of 150,000, flooding part of downtown and forcing the emergency evacuations of hundreds of people who likely underestimated the storm's ferocity.
Repair estimates indicated that the storm would almost certainly rank among the nation's costliest natural disasters. Even as rivers finally stopped rising in Vermont, New Jersey and Connecticut, many communities and farm areas remained flooded, and officials said complete damage estimates were nowhere in sight.
An estimate released immediately after Irene by the Kinetic Analysis Corp., a Maryland-based consulting firm that uses computer models to estimate storm losses, put the damage at $7.2 billion in eight states and Washington, D.C.
That would eclipse damage from Hurricane Bob, which caused $1 billion in damage in New England in 1991 or the equivalent of about $1.7 billion today, and Hurricane Gloria, which swept through the region in 1985 and left $900 million in damage, the equivalent of $1.9 billion today, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Large sections of Wallington, N.J., remained underwater after a cruel one-two punch: the Passaic River flooded the heart-shaped hamlet Sunday and then receded, only to rise again late Tuesday, forcing a new round of evacuations.
Kevin O'Reilly said the water shattered basement windows in his home
"It sounded like Niagara Falls," O'Reilly said. "It just filled up immediately, and this is what we've been dealing with since then."
The town is accustomed to moderate flooding because it sits atop a network of underground streams that form a water table already saturated by record August rainfall.
Irene has led to the deaths of at least 46 people in 13 states. If that death toll stands, it would be comparable to 1999's Hurricane Floyd, which also struck North Carolina and charged up the East Coast into New England, causing most of its 57 deaths by inland drowning. At the time, it was the deadliest U.S. hurricane in nearly 40 years but was later dwarfed by the 1,800 deaths caused by Katrina in 2005.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo estimated the damage to his state alone at $1 billion during a visit to Prattsville, a Catskills community where 600 homes were damaged by heavy rains and floods that also shredded roads and washed out bridges.
"Upstate New York paid a terrible, terrible price for this storm," Cuomo said.
In Simsbury, Conn., several farm fields were flooded along the Farmington River. Pumpkins and other produce could be seen floating away.
"Farmers lost a good amount of crops," said First Selectwoman Mary Glassman.
Connecticut officials on Thursday told people who get their drinking water from 69 small local providers to boil it while officials check whether the flooding affected the quality.
Power outages persisted across the region, with some of the largest in Connecticut, where about 260,000 homes and businesses were still in the dark Thursday morning, and New York and Virginia, which each had around 180,000 customers without power.
Amtrak service ramped up again Thursday with several key lines restarting regular operations, including between Harrisburg, Pa., and New York via Philadelphia. For a time, the busy Northeast Regional line connecting Boston to Washington was cut off by flooding in Trenton, N.J.
But northwest of New York City, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said its Port Jervis line suffered catastrophic damage that might take months to fix
With Irene gone, scientists turned their attention to the open Atlantic Ocean, where Hurricane Katia was gaining strength. Meteorologists said it was too soon to determine where it might go. Forecasters also watched a system in the Gulf of Mexico that could become a tropical depression.