October 14, 2005

Waterlogged Northeastern U.S. under flood warnings

By Larry Fine

LITTLE FALLS, New Jersey (Reuters) - Flood warnings covered
much of the Northeastern United States on Friday as swollen
rivers overflowed their banks and residents fled their
water-filled homes after a week of unrelenting rain.

Flooding swamped streets and homes in northern New Jersey,
while rains threatened mudslides in Connecticut and hampered
relief work in New Hampshire, where seven people have died and
at least 100 homes have been washed away or badly damaged.

"In the Northeast, we've had the normal month's rainfall
for October in the last six days," said Peter Gabrielsen, chief
of the National Weather Service division that monitors floods
and rainfall in the eastern United States.

Nearly 12 inches of rain have fallen in New York City's
Central Park since October 7, when the showers began across
much of the Northeast, he said. Another 2 to 3 inches were
forecast to fall on Friday and early Saturday.

New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey declared a state of emergency
as the overflowing Passaic, Ramapo and Raritan Rivers
threatened to soak houses in low-lying areas.

Authorities used sandbags in an attempt to hold back the
waters, but the rivers had already crested in several spots and
flooded areas nearby.

In Little Falls, which forecasters said could be hard hit
if the Passaic rises much higher, as many as 400 homes were in
danger, said Police Chief Gerald Hunter.

"Right now we're teeter-tottering on whether the water will
break through. The way the water came down, we might get
hammered," he said. "We have to prepare for the worst. We've
advised people living in the lower-lying areas to evacuate."

Little Falls resident Dave Schultz said normally he cannot
see the Passaic River from his house, but on Friday the water
was only a few feet away. Little Falls lies about 20 miles west
of New York City.

Nearby towns of Totowa and West Paterson also face the
threat of flooding should the rivers crest on Saturday.

"We're in God's hands," said Little Falls police Sgt.
Arthur Katz. "Whatever happens, we'll deal with it."


Forecasters said a stalled cold front was bringing in
moisture along the Atlantic coast but that a big high-pressure
system from the Midwest could push the rain out of the region
over the weekend.

"We should start to see some clearing by Sunday," said

With memories still fresh of Hurricane Katrina and the
flooding of New Orleans, authorities in New Jersey activated
emergency management response teams.

Several roads were closed and unnavigable due to
floodwaters. Evening rush-hour traffic in New Jersey suburbs
was snarled by the flooding, heavy rain and poor visibility.
Television footage showed rescue workers in boats and residents
in canoes navigating some New Jersey streets.

Resort towns along the New Jersey shore, including Loch
Arbour, Bradley Beach and Belmar, were also flooded.

In the town of Oakland, New Jersey, along the banks of the
rain-swollen Ramapo River, residents of more than 100 homes
were forced to evacuate due to flooding.

"The town is saturated," said Brian Hague, spokesman for
Bergen County, New Jersey, Executive Dennis McNerney.

"Obviously we all have the Gulf Coast in mind when we think
about flooding. Still, we're talking about people's lives being
turned upside down."

Oakland resident and Red Cross volunteer Joan Crowley said,
"People have water three feet deep in their back yards."

Flood watches remained in effect for Connecticut, Rhode
Island, much of northern New Jersey and central and western
Massachusetts, where 75 people in a swamped mobile home park
lost their homes this week when a river crested.

In Montville, Connecticut, mudslides at a construction site
threatened several homes, while New Hampshire ordered 93
residents to evacuate a trailer-home park in the low-lying city
of Keene. Another 1,200 Keene residents were subject to
voluntary evacuation.

Flights were delayed at airports across the region. New
York's LaGuardia and New Jersey's Newark International Airport
experienced delays of up to 2-1/2 hours on incoming flights.

(Additional reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst and Daniel Trotta
in New York and Jason Szep in Boston)