Most in NJ Get Power Back as Hard-Hit Passaic Trudges On

Cleanup process gets grueling in hard-hit areas

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A week after the storm, homeowners struggle to cope with damage from lingering floods.

    Electrical service has been restored to virtually all New Jerseyans who lost power during last weekend's nor'easter.
           
    Public Service Electric & Gas spokeswoman Virginia Biggins says five customers in Bergen County were still without power Saturday morning. It was hoped they would have their service back later in the day.

            PSE&G -- the state's largest utility -- has restored service to more than 458,000 customers affected by the storm, which contained heavy rains and strong winds that knocked down trees and power lines and spurred major flooding.
           
    Biggins says about 1,600 gas customers -- mostly in Passaic County, which was particularly hard hit -- were still without service due to flooding. Their service will be restored as floodwaters recede, and full service restoration is not expected until late next week.

    Meanwhile, the cleanup process is getting grueling for storm-weary Passaic residents.       

    "If you do it yourself like I did the first time it took five months," said David Sperling of Little Falls.

    Now the magnitude of what was destroyed is becoming painfully clear.

    Missy Wartholik, another Little Falls resident, says he freezer, furnace, washer and dryer were all wrecked by the storm.

    As the county struggles to clear the damage, only residents and their invited guests are allowed in to prevent scavengers from rooting through the piles of garbage.

    Fortunately, the flood-swept Little Falls has help.

    Fred Batelli of the city's emergency management group says his colleagues along with boy scouts, church groups and others are volunteering their assistance, whether its loading boxes, delivering hundreds of donated items or lending a hand in other ways.

    We're getting "help from all over," Batelli said.

    In nearby Wayne, PSE&G crews checked on an estimated 48 homes separated from the more populated areas because the sparse homes and deep water make it difficult for volunteers to help in a meaningful way.

    "I can walk back there, but you'd have to go through some pretty deep water," said Vinny Fontanella of Wayne. "It's not worth it. What am I going to do back there?"

    A week after the storm, the Passaic River continues to rage in a spot in Little Falls where residents say water normally trickles. Upstream there are dams with gates to regulate the flow of the water, and beleaguered homeowners downstream wonder why the same protection isn't in place on their end.

    After enduring three floods in five years, many people in Little Falls have become used to the cleanup process and the push for insurance money. But they still hope a solution presents itself before the water comes back.

    City officials are striving to find one.

    "After our meeting with the governor this week and the Army corps in Washington we just told them how desperate we are to have some kind of solution," said Little Falls Mayor Mike DeFrancisci.