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'Now What?': Sudden Flood Caught Pine Brook Residents Off Guard

Officials are trying to determine why there was more flooding than anticipated.

Montville Township is working to help about two dozen lower Pine Brook families affected by a sudden flood on Sunday night and trying to determine what happened leading up to the flooding and why the amount was greater than anticipated.

About 20 families in lower Pine Brook evacuated their homes in water that was waist-high at some points. Some left with little warning on Sunday night, while others left the following morning. The evacuations started a few hours after the town already had closed its Emergency Operations Center because the effects of Hurricane Irene seemed to be diminishing, officials said.

Changebridge, Woodmont and Normandy roads, Sheffield Street and Walnut Drive had some flooding on Sunday afternoon, but soon they were inundated with much more water.

Ranjan Takier and several of his Sheffield Street neighbors returned to their homes on Tuesday morning to figure out how to start repairing damage to their property. Some residents were surveying the damage for the first time. Resident Bob Dudek and his wife, Elaine, and son, Rob, stayed in their home. They had 5 feet of water in their basement on Tuesday.

Takier said he does not have flood insurance because his home is not in a flood zone and that he hopes there will be financial assistance available.

Neighbors said they are hoping for some guidance from the town as to what they should do next.

"Now what?" Takier said.

Montville closed its Emergency Operations Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday saying the effects of the storm were diminishing. But around 9:30 p.m., police officers and members of the National Guard were going door-to-door saying voluntary evacuations were under way, that residents should leave in 20 minutes and that they could be taken to Montville Township High School, though the school didn’t have cots for people to spend the night.

“We were caught a little off guard,” Mayor Jim Sandham said Tuesday.

There were a number of circumstances that could have affected the amount of flooding, and Sandham said the town was trying to determine what happened. At 5:12 p.m. Sunday, Parsippany police sent out an alert reporting that the Rockaway River flood wall failed and residents in its path should consider leaving. On Sunday night, Montville police were contacted by United Water, with the company indicating the Jersey City Reservoir dam could "overtop," causing "a substantial amount of additional water to be discharged into the already flood swollen river." Sandham said authorities mobilized as fast as they could.

Sandham said there were conflicting reports as to whether United Water intentionally released water from the dam. An attempt to reach United Water on Tuesday evening was unsuccessful.

Hurricane Irene drenched Montville and surrounding towns during the storm. An organization that tracks precipation amounts reported more than 5.5 inches of rain in neighboring Boonton Township, while Wayne received more than 10 inches. The Rockaway River at Boonton below the Jersey City Reservoir crested at 9.73 feet at 10:45 p.m. on Sunday, more than a foot above the previous record set in 1979. The Rockaway River feeds into the Passaic River, which was at a major flood stage at the time and continued to swell for more than a day to its own record crest.

"We're just hoping the river comes down and then we're going to do what we can to help these people get back on their feet," Sandham said.

BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 09:15 PM
They closed the Emergency Operations Center at 6 p.m. on Sunday !!! ? Sunday @ 6pm ???. .really...??? . For pump-outs, information or to report property damage, call the Montville Police Department at 973-257-4300. If you experience an emergency, please contact the Police Department by calling 9-1-1.
BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 09:20 PM
FYI.. This is the pump I bought last December. to replace a 2 yr old HomeDepot crap special, http://www.zoellerpumps.com/ProductBenefit.aspx?ProductID=89 RAN 30 hours straight after power went on..cleared thousand of gal. of water injested with debris..and ? ..without a hiccup.Make sure the sump is covered and secured with wire mesh or plastic cover.NOT cheap but worth ot. Pilled out a dead squirrel from a neighbors pump hole Tuesday.
BobD1950 September 03, 2011 at 09:29 PM
Lets make it MAKE it loud and claer..the unpaid VOLUNTEER (F.D. , etc. service workers) that worked and are still out here, during the days and nights for the Montville Twsp. Residents,during and after this debacle are in my book the angels of our streets. They are our neighbors and friends, that risked life and limb..to be what we nver thought we would need. THATS the definition of dedication.
Dave F September 05, 2011 at 11:28 PM
Ron - the Montville Police department was significantly involved in the evacuation efforts Sunday evening. They were the first on the scene and were going door to door before the PB FD arrived. Why are you saying things that clearly inaccurate? This is not the time for turf wars.
Todd Schwartz September 08, 2011 at 11:19 PM
We sustained a total loss of our business at 321 Changebridge which was under 2 feet of water, levels NEVER seen before. Helpless we resorted to a insurance brokers which left for the holiday weekend and FEMA. We are dumb founded that a person claiming basement flooding for a finished basement abandoned since 1978 tare given priority because of the "primary dwelling" definition. I have spoke with not less than a six families which all have received aid despite a) being able to continue occupancy b) being able to continue to work. We are currently housing relatives who lost their home in Springfield. The day following irene we pulled cars flooded up to their windows in the middle of Changebridge out, chaperoned lineman trucks from Ohio dumped off by State Police unable to get around. The 24 hours following the flood we did not see a single emergency response vehicle. There were camera crews posted at the florist shop covering this. Rather than pass judgement or make assumptions, we rolled up our sleeves and started in by boat. People do not believe when we tell them that Irene knocked us to the ground. Not a single person has reached out to us other than a few customers and we have been working around the clock, cleaning and disinfecting to prevent mold which is the real devil here. Our insurance has since denied our claim and FEMA has still not responded. We just want our town to know that there is more to the picture than sometimes meets the eyes. Thanks

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